The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) rigorously explores and assesses U.S. Marine Corps service concepts using an integral combination of wargaming, concept-based experimentation, technology assessments, and analysis to validate, modify, or reject the concept’s viability, and identify capability gaps and opportunities, in order to inform and for future force development. The Intuitive Robotic Operator (IROC) Challenge was conceived by the Ground Combat Element branch of the MCWL as a means to identify technology that might prove to be an alternative to heads-down and hand-held systems for controlling, positioning, and navigating unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) deployed in close quarters with a Marine squad or team.
In the fall of 2014, the MCWL sought to further its understanding of available technologies that could provide a Marine with the ability to control an unmanned ground vehicle comparable to the way a squad of dismounted Marines interacts in an operational context. For this task, the MCWL approached the Defense Mobility Enterprise (DME), a unique enterprise of Government and industry dedicated to accelerating the advancement of manned and unmanned ground vehicle technologies. Thanks to the inherent flexibility in their Ground Vehicle Systems Other Transaction Agreement (GVS OTA), the DME was able to offer the MCWL expedited access to the latest in proven commercial solutions via its industry/academic component, the National Advanced Mobility Consortium (NAMC) (formerly known as the Robotics Technology Consortium). The NAMC’s expansive and diverse membership includes traditional and nontraditional, large and small, for-profit companies, academic institutions, and non-profit organizations with ground vehicle and robotics technological capabilities.
A webinar was held to explain the underlying assumptions, purpose and context for the IROC challenge. This included reviewing certain fundamental concepts, such as Marine squad and team composition and basic movement and maneuver principles, and providing an overview of certain mission vignettes and how team and squad leaders are likely to deploy and use an unmanned ground vehicle in the context of each mission.
NAMC members participating in this webinar were able to use this background information to help them prepare and submit whitepapers applying to participate in the challenge. Five member companies were asked to participate in the challenge and exhibit their solutions.
The 2014 IROC Challenge event took place from October 20-24, 2014 at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC) in Butlerville, Indiana. The NAMC member organizations who attended participated in three demonstrations to show their specific capabilities:
- Command Recognition Challenge: Repeatedly recognize and respond to intuitive commands given at various locations in the vicinity of the system.
- Mission Execution Challenge: Execute a mission similar to one that might be tasked in an operational setting with as little human interaction as possible.
- Companion Challenge: Accompany a human operator through tactically-relevant environments that may cause trouble for human-robot interfaces.
Following the challenge, two (2) NAMC members were chosen to receive funding from MCWL to further develop their technologies and are now in negotiations with Government for these awards utilizing the GVS OTA.
If the cutting-edge solutions, shortened award times, and competitive submissions delivered to the MCWL are benefits your Government group is interested in, contact the Vehicle and Robotics Alliance (VRA) Program Office today.
Conversely, if your company or academic organization has ground vehicle technologies suited for initiatives like the IROC challenge, join the NAMC today.