TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Weapons
OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate discreet subsystems of an autonomous munitions resupply system for field artillery that functions across the spectrum of supply chain operations from the field munitions delivery point to point of need.
DESCRIPTION: Field artillery resupply is a multi-step process. Currently, munitions (projectiles, primers, propellant, and fuses) are crated, palletized, and transported to the logistics release point, where they are unloaded, uncrated, and transferred into a Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicle (FAASV). The FAASV then travels to a point behind the field artillery weapons system, situated far enough behind the gun line for safety, but near enough to maintain line of sight. Munitions are shuttled by hand from the FAASV to the weapons system and loaded into the gun by hand. This field artillery resupply concept is focused on the expedited delivery of these mission critical munitions. Autonomous logistic resupply systems could assist in this process in numerous areas, increasing the rate of supply to the weapons system and decreasing the number of soldiers required. To stay on the cutting edge of resupply technology the Army is interested in novel solutions in the following areas: • Autonomous logistics systems for munitions: Develop autonomous robotic systems for transport of munitions in a state of storage to accelerate timelines and reduce personnel requirements. Solutions should enable unmanned unloading of crated and palletized items of various sizes from transport vehicles, and the stocking of primer and fuse boxes, propellant canisters, and uncrated projectiles onto the FAASV or alternative system for transport to the gun line. Alternatively, this system could deliver munitions to the gun line itself. • Autonomous field vehicle resupply: Develop ground/or and air platforms for autonomous delivery of field artillery munitions from the FAASV, alternate vehicle, to the weapons system for tactical last mile resupply. Technologies must autonomously deliver a payload of sensitive items across unimproved terrain with a minimum payload capacity of 150 lbs. over distances 1km or under. • Autonomous field weapon system operation: Develop autonomous robotic systems that are capable of semi- and fully autonomous munitions handling inside a weapons system. Its functions would support loading of projectiles into the cannon breech, setting of charges and propellants, and management of excess case materials inside of the weapons system. Potential solutions should consider the need for compact form factors, low electronic signatures, cyber security protections, shock and vibration management, and power supply constraints. • Command and control in a GPS-denied environment: Develop capabilities to facilitate the movement and accurate delivery of munitions to mobile field artillery units while maintaining secure command and control and navigation in GPS degraded/denied and radio frequency contested environments. Potential solutions include but are not limited to digital datalink, computer vision, path planning over unimproved terrain in uncertain/adversarial environments using artificial intelligence, teaming/swarming behaviors, visual inertial odometry and map of the earth. All solutions should have low electronic signatures and cyber security protection. • Human augmentation: Develop passive or active exoskeleton capabilities to assist crew-served artillery systems. Desired capabilities will mitigate injury due to human manipulation of objects weighing greater than 100lbs as well as repetitive motion injury. Additional needs include solutions to mitigate the effects of exposure to high decibel acoustic transients and continuous acoustic signatures consistent with crew-served weapons system operations. Potential solutions will address harmful environmental exposure without impairing communication or sensing of the local environment, be capable of sustained operations, and not require extensive training. Solutions to this solicitation will be those that innovatively adapt current technology to produce results in a short timeframe and at low cost. This topic is intended for companies that can complete a feasibility study and prototype validated concepts in accelerated Phase I and II schedules, and is aimed at later stage development rather than basic science and research.
PHASE I: This is a direct to phase II SBIR topic. Proposals should document that the performer has developed and demonstrate feasibility of a component, sub-system, or system concept that addresses any or all of the subjects listed above to a technology readiness level of 4.
PHASE II: Develop and demonstrate a prototype of a component, sub-system, or system concept that addresses any or all of the subjects listed above that is capable of establishing the technical validity of the approach.
PHASE III: Develop a manufacturing-ready product design that supports the integration of the technology with the crew-served weapons system. The Phase III capability will leverage an open systems architecture (as required) enabling rapid integration with emerging and legacy systems, and successfully demonstrate technology integration as part of end-to-end weapon system operations. Low-rate initial production will occur (as required).
1: Paladin M109A6 155mm Artillery System: https://www.army-technology.com/projects/paladin/
2: Army S&T Investment in Ground Vehicle Robotics: https://ndiastorage.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/ndia/2018/groundrobot/MillsPT1.pdf
3: Autonomous Convoy Technology Moves Toward Official Program: http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2019/2/22/autonomous-convoy-tech-moves-toward-official-program
4: Extended Range Cannon to get Autoloader within 5 years: https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/global-force-symposium/2019/03/27/extended-range-cannon-to-get-autoloader-within-five-years/
5: Army Rolling Ahead with Unmanned convoys: http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2018/4/4/army-rolling-ahead-with-manned-unmanned-convoys
6: Marine Corps Autonomous Air Resupply: https://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/your-marine-corps/2018/07/17/the-marines-want-a-drone-delivery-system-that-could-haul-up-to-500-pounds-to-remote-troops/
7: Joint Tactical Air Autonomous Resupply: https://www.army.mil/article/219
KEYWORDS: Robotics, Autonomous Resupply, Exoskeleton, Human Augmentation, Unmanned Logistics, GPS-denied, Field Artillery, Munitions, Prototype Development