In 2010, the U.S. Marine Corps Warfighter Lab (MCWL) wanted to investigate and provide a technical demonstration capability to explore how autonomous vehicles would be utilized and impact their current CONOPS and TTPs in logistics convoy operations. The MCWL presented this request to the Defense Mobility Enterprise (DME), a consortium focused on accelerating the advancement of manned and unmanned ground vehicles. The DME in turn sent a request for proposals to its industry/academic members via the National Advanced Mobility Consortium (NAMC) (formerly the Robotics Technology Consortium). Members of this national alliance include small and large businesses, academic institutions, traditional and nontraditional defense contractors.
After the proposals were evaluated by the Government, the contract was awarded to Oshkosh Defense, LLC. The $5 million contract was for 2010 through 2012, with Oshkosh providing a cost share. Together with Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC), they researched, designed, and integrated the vehicle components, drive by wire, and artificial intelligence software to demonstrate an integrated logistics convoy consisting of manned and unmanned U.S. Marines Corps Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) vehicles. This capability was demonstrated and assessed at multiple military installations and culminated in warfighter training and operation of the technology as part of the USMC Enhanced MAGTF Operations (EMO) Limited Objective Experiment (LOE) 2.2 in August 2012.
The Office of Naval Research Code 30 Force Protection Thrust has extended the contract through multiple task orders beginning in FY13 through FY15.
Throughout the course of the project, Oshkosh and NREC developed and tested:
- MTVR drive by wire system
- Military GPS solution
- Autonomy perception
- Autonomy planning
- Autonomy precise positioning
- Multi-UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) Operator Control Interface
The system successfully demonstrated large operational military vehicles operating in a convoy under full supervised autonomous control. The autonomy system was capable of operation on primitive and rural unimproved roads at mission relevant operational speeds with the added capability of seeing, understanding, and driving through dust.
To achieve these robust results, both Oshkosh and NREC leveraged their private sector developments— a unique advantage of the DME thanks to the flexibility inherent in their Ground Vehicle Systems Other Transaction Agreement (GVS OTA).
- Several commercial sponsors contributed to developing the base on-road autonomy components for the DARPA Urban Challenge in which Carnegie Mellon won first place. This base autonomy technology provided a starting point for the Cargo UGV autonomy system.
- The underlying autonomous software infrastructure used as the backbone on which the autonomy algorithms were implemented was originally developed for commercial mining applications.
- COTS radar sensors from a Tier 1 automotive supplier had been modified specifically to provide raw returns and track information to feed into the perception system machine learning and feature classifier.
- Electric Power Assist Steering servo motors originally developed for commercial and recreational vehicles were also used to control steering of the Cargo UGV vehicles.
This project has informed current Government efforts to develop future uses for autonomous convoy operations. The resulting technology is anticipated to transition into a fielded system. This technology has also been used for other applications, such as route clearance.
The success of the Cargo UGV system shows the power of the DME to bring the latest technologies from the private sector directly to Government customers— all while reducing cycle time and ensuring sound investments.
If your Government group’s challenges could be met with expedited access to the latest in private sector technology, contact the Vehicle and Robotics Alliance (VRA) Program Office today to discuss utilizing the GVA OTA as a contract vehicle.
If your company or research organization wants to provide innovative ground vehicle solutions to groups like the U.S. Marine Corps Warfighter Lab, join the NAMC today.