In 2012, the U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division was facing a requirement for a haptic interface to control a full bimanual dexterous manipulator system. The development of this haptic interface was in support of the Highly Dexterous Manipulator (HDM) effort funded by the Joint Ground Robotic Enterprise (JGRE) as a Technology Demonstrator for the Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic System (AEODRS) Program of Record (PoR).
Seeking the latest in innovative technology delivered in an expedited timeframe, the U.S. Navy approached the Robotics Technology Consortium (RTC), now known as the National Advanced Mobility Consortium (NAMC), which is the industry/academic arm of the Defense Mobility Enterprise (DME), with their request. The aim of this project was the development of HDMHI, a two-handed haptic user interface for control of the Highly Dexterous Manipulator (HDM). This interface would enable precision motion control of the HDM system and provide high-fidelity force feedback to the operator. Members of the NAMC submitted proposals against these requirements.
After these proposals were carefully evaluated by the Government for project understanding, solution and testing feasibility, personnel/teaming, and other factors, NAMC member company Harris Corporation, a member since 2008, was awarded $398,000 and 6 months to deliver a prototype. Collaborating with fellow NAMC member organization Johns Hopkins University, they set to work on the interface.
Harris had previously developed a one-handed haptic interface that enabled precision haptic control of dexterous manipulators for commercial (e.g., hazardous chemical handling) as well as Government applications (e.g., military/police EOD and route clearance). This project leveraged that design to develop a two-handed version of the haptic interface and also develop a software API to support third-party interfaces with the controller. The resulting prototype met all requirements and was delivered to Johns Hopkins University – Applied Physics Laboratory to support demonstration of the dexterous dual-arm robot control.
The resulting demonstration system included the controller (HDMHI), the dual-arm robot (HDM), and multiple dexterous robotic hands. Moreover, the delivered HDMHI prototype was a rugged, TRL 6 system appropriate for operation inside a Joint EOD Response Vehicle (JERRV) as a technology demonstrator for the AEODRS program to validate the usage of advanced haptic control of high-DOF manipulators in an EOD mission environment.
Subsequent evolution of the haptic interface has resulted in a controller that is part of the RedHawk® T7 system, an advanced ground robot able to perform vehicle-borne IED defeat.
By using the DME to fulfill their request, the U.S. Navy was delivered the best of private sector technologies in a shortened timeframe. Thanks to the flexibility inherent in the Section 845 Other Transaction Agreement (OTA), world-class institutions and proven companies were able to collaborate and deliver prototypes, all without the hurdles of traditional Government contracting.
If your Government group is seeking similar results and the latest cutting-edge technology from the commercial sector, 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 is interested in submitting proposals to groups like the U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division without putting a strain on your operations, join the NAMC today.