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Lightweight Robotic Mule



OBJECTIVE: A robotic personal mobility device that can carry a soldier or that they can carry.

DESCRIPTION: Off road terrain poses a continual challenge to military movement.Coupled with the heavy loads that dismounted soldiers are required to carry, resupply robots such as the Squad Machine Equipment Transport (SMET) can provide a needed capability for the US Army and USMC, but struggle with narrow trails and urban environments.The goal of this topic is to overcome current SMET mobility limitations by expanding the terrain that an SMET robot can negotiate while intrinsically improving the transportability of the system.It is anticipated that a lightweight robotic mule will improve the mobility of the SMET through narrow trails and urban environments while being easier and lighter to maneuver.The goal is to be able to maneuver through a standard door opening, while being light enough unloaded for one-man lift.

PHASE I: Develop a mechanical design to support additional weight while negotiating a narrow door opening or narrow trail and balancing dynamically.The mechanism must be easily packed and transported by hand into another vehicle.Demonstrate the mechanism feasibility in a Computer Aided Design (CAD) environment such as SolidWorks or equivalent.The mechanism must be suitable for one-man lift, with weight not to exceed 20kg (Threshold) or 15kg (Objective).The robot should be able to negotiate a standard door opening while fully loaded.

PHASE II: Prototype the mechanical design developed in Phase I and demonstrate it on a soldier following mission, such as an SMET demonstration. The system should support between 100kg (Threshold) and 150kg (Objective) of payload.The system should provide soldier following capability and be able to perform with or without the operator on board.The system should control balance of the vehicle, while avoiding obstacles, and negotiating narrow urban or off-road terrain.The system shall be able to navigate through a standard handicap accessible door width, 80 cm (threshold) to 50 cm (objective)The top speed on flat terrain should be 5m/s (Threshold) to 7m/s (Objective) with a range of 15 miles (Threshold) to 20 miles (Objective).The objective terrain is a standard nature trail in a boreal forest, which may have a few roots and rocks but free from climbing obstacles.

PHASE III: This topic is developed in direct connection to several Army programs, e.g. Soldier Machine Equipment Transport (S-MET).The civilian sector would also significantly benefit from the developed technology for use in urban transportation applications.The benefits of this development would be inherently safe autonomy in and around people.This type of vehicle could be optionally manned, it can carry you, or you can carry it.This topic addresses the “last mile” problem which has dual-use applications in industry.

KEYWORDS: robotics, path planning, personal mobility, soldier load


[1] K. Massey. Squad Mission Equipment Transport (SMET) Lessons Learned for Industry, NDIA, 2016.; [2] M. Perdoch. Leader Tracking for a Walking Logistics Robot, IROS, 2015; [3] J Knapik. Load Carriage in Military Operations, US Army Research Institute, 2010; [4] J. Pratt.A Step Toward Humanoid Push Recovery, IEEE, 2006

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