Weapon of wheels

Cover Story

Use of unmanned armored vehicles in battlefield

With the advent of new technologies, unmanned ground vehicles are being increasingly used to defend ground targets and carry out reconnaissance in the battlefield which is filled with lots of hazards and release of toxic weapons by the adversary.

That is why unmanned armored vehicles are regularly used and are expected to remain a very important part in military operations.

These vehicles provide ground forces with enhanced capabilities in terms of mobility, firepower and protection. One of the major factors contributing the growth of the global armored vehicle market is the threats from bordering countries, and the increasing defence spending, and internal insurgency problem.

The UGVs are used in different kind of applications like military, surveillance, security service, riot control, hostage situation, police, law enforcement, border patrol, etc.

They work more effectively in environmental extremes such as heat, cold, or nuclear, chemical and biological contamination.

Thus, UGV can be used to augment the soldiers’ capability in the field of military operations. New technologies allow to remote control station and its software architecture to efficiently control UGV in the future combat fields.

In addition, one has to take into account autonomous moving using a variety of sensing techniques and sophisticated designed systems.

In addition, it is required to be done many remote operating tests for multiple unmanned ground vehicles in the predefined combat area.

Control of UGVs is accomplished remotely, through a remote control station that allows an operator to receive sensor data from the UGV and send motion commands and missions to the UGV.

The developed systems, UGV and remote control station, is easy to operate and enable significant reduction in station operator workload by utilizing an intuitive graphic user interfaces for UGV navigation and allowing a single station operator to command multiple UGVs simultaneously.

In the consequence of the operation test, one can expect the remote control station and UGV play an important role in the future military operation.

Despite a series of new technologies, a new generation of UGV is actively being developed for both civilian and military use to mainly perform dirty and dangerous activities. Predominantly these vehicles are used to replace humans in hazardous.

Lately UGVs are the focus of many research projects for both military and civilian applications.

UGVs, in varying sizes to meet mission capability requirement, are today saving lives and providing critical supporting capabilities in current military operations worldwide.

In general, a UGV is controlled by a human operator at a remote location via a communications link.

All cognitive processes are provided by the operator based upon sensory feedback from either line-of-sight visual observation or remote sensory input such as video cameras.

Using the multiple sensor of UGV, the operators are provided with the ability to directly obtain and view critical information in a timely manner, and especially to obtain this information from areas that would be considered to be high risk before the advent of UGVs.

In tactical information component, object searching, target tracking, and information fusion methods are presented for combat field recognition as correctly as possible in timely manner.

In addition, specially coordinated system inspection component which is functionally and systematically provided by built-in-test (BIT) for reliable operations is designed for continuous performance.

The UGVs conduct an extensive mission receiving and reviewing continuously. After confirming the mission provided by remote control station, they accomplish that mission to match the combat situation.

UGV boom

Although a remote-operated UGV is a vehicle that is controlled by remote control station via a communication link, the UGV must be able to send and receive telemetry and sensor data and video/audio to remote control station, as well as interacting with the environment.

Also, UGV is capable of autonomous driving based upon waypoints and basic obstacle avoidance, and also capable of driving controlled by human interface from far away.

For this purpose, militaries are developing the UGV for autonomous moving using a variety of sensing techniques.

The gen-next UGV will have many sophisticated-designed systems such as navigation, obstacle detection sensor, wheel activator for vehicle control and network device for communication between UGV and remote control station.

The UGV needs to utilize the GPS (Global Positioning System), IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) and INS (Inertial Navigation System), which are widely used in the UGV or other unmanned systems to estimate position during the mission.

The GPS is a space-based satellite navigation system that provides location and time information. The IMU is an electronic device that measures and reports on a UGV’s velocity, orientation, and gravitational forces, using a combination of accelerometers and gyroscopes.

It works by detecting the current rate of acceleration using one or more accelerometers, and detects changes in rotational attributes like pitch, roll and yaw using one or more gyroscopes.

Also, an INS is a navigation aid that uses a computer, motion sensors, named accelerometers, and rotation sensors such as gyroscopes to continuously calculate via dead reckoning the position, orientation, and velocity (direction and speed of movement) of a moving UGV without the need for external references.

Using a variety of navigation data obtained by these systems, the UGV can autonomously move to waypoint which is indicated by remote control station.

At the same time, UGV sends navigation data to remote control station in order to notify the location of UGV exactly and instantly.

It is required that the navigation data flow in navigation computer for detecting the object efficiently, a LRF (Laser Range Finder) and a ultra sonic sensor are generally used.

For the same reason, the new generation UGV also utilizes a laser beam or a typical acoustic frequency to determine the distance to an object.

Indeed, striving for a protection of lives and health of the military members in conducting missions leads the highly developed states to a development of unmanned vehicles.

Basic features of each unmanned armored combat vehicle include-dynamics of movement, good driving range in terrain, reconnaissance effectiveness, a defined firing power and a reliable protection of important electronic and weapon systems.

The armament of an unmanned combat vehicle is defined by a character and distance of targets, which are to be destroyed or neutralized by a combat vehicle.

Quality of armament is assessed also by effectiveness of firing, by a quality of sighting and surveillance devices, accuracy of weapon guidance and by an available firing calibre.

Dynamics of movement is characterized mostly by a so called tactical mobility, by acceleration from a site, by a speed of driving and by an ability of an unmanned combat vehicle to pass different obstacles, not much bearing ground.

Armor protection

The unmanned vehicles can be designed in a way to excel by their maneuverability and stability. The armor in different versions protects only internal equipment of an unmanned vehicle against an enemy firing.

The armor protection of the hull of the vehicle is not requested and therefore the unmanned vehicles can have a low total weight.

Protection from visual, infra-red and radar surveillance by an enemy is obvious mainly by applying the electric driving systems.

In addition to these basic features and varicosity of tasks, the unmanned vehicles can fulfill in present condition-the unmanned combat vehicles must be reliable in operation, with minimum demands for a preventive maintenance, even in field conditions.

The design of an unmanned combat vehicle, all its groups and aggregates must enable a series production, if possible by common technologies and at economically acceptable prices.

The global armored vehicle market is segmented into two major categories, on the basis of product into main light protected vehicles, battle tanks, amphibious armored vehicles, unmanned ground vehicles and MRAP.

On the basis of application the global armored vehicles market is segmented into homeland security defence, and commercial.

Since computer systems were introduced in the world, a lot of scientists have been engaged in creating autonomous robots or vehicles to explore unknown worlds. Some UGVs have been used for space exploration-exploring planets like the Saturn and Mars.

Since 2004, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of US introduced a competition for autonomous vehicles, still continuing to hold this competition until today.

This makes people highly motivated to create UGVs and considering that driverless vehicles are required more in our life in many fields, each DARPA Challenge is a great opportunity to develop unmanned vehicle systems.

However, in India very few research institutes are doing researches in the field of real time UGV although prototypes are developed in many labs.

Recently, Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) India in association with Defence Research and Technology Office (DRTO), Singapore, have together developed an unmanned ground vehicle that can be used during nuclear blasts and wars for a reconnaissance to help find injured people. The vehicle was developed using a Honda CRV sports utility vehicle.

One can take it for granted, that dynamics of conduct of fighting activities will increase in future operations which is conditioned by an increased maneuverability of units and task groups.

The factors enabling an increase of manoeuvrability of troops include their equipment with mobile means.

These mobile assets will have to be equipped with efficient weapon systems to protect the personnel being transported, with construction provision of high maneuverability in terrain as well as equipment providing good conditions for an activity of a vehicle crew.

The land forces units and formations can be equipped in addition to traditional mobile assets with unmanned mobile assets on a tracked or on a wheeled chassis.

Each of these kinds of chassis has its strong and weak points. High maneuverable assets must be taken into consideration in mechanized units and formations equipped with unmanned mobile combat and supporting means on wheeled or on tracked chassis, which can quickly meet the tasks in different directions and at the same time it will not depend on communications neither on threats to the vehicle crew.

Robotic systems

Unmanned military UGVs are robotic systems used within the army during recent ten years. The unmanned vehicles are defines as autonomous systems and all-terrain vehicle assigned for reconnaissance and combat activities instead of personnel.

The present-day robots being used in practice or the ones being prepared or developed combat robots or other robots for auxiliary or special tasks can be classified in several main categories with respect to their capabilities, dimensions and weight such as light, medium-weight to heavy.

Serving for a reconnaissance in a dangerous area or in urban area, where common soldiers are exposed to an increased risk of ambush or a possible threat by a well-hidden, camouflaged improvised explosive devices or remote-controlled explosive devices.

These are mostly equipped with cameras, electronic sensors or electronic slots with suitable equipment for reconnaissance of a dangerous area or reconnaissance in urban streets combat-usually are equipped with various armament, a gun or a light machine-gun, mounted on an upper part of the UGV.

It can be fully stabilized and sighted by information received from electronic sensors and cameras.

However, removal or deactivation of unexploded improvised explosive devices, anti-personnel mines or other unexploded ammunition.

Ground support system

The unmanned light ground vehicle currently used includes (light reconnaissance and combat assets with a weight several kilograms to several hundreds of kilograms): PackBoat from iRobot company (versions Scout, Explorer, EOD), FoxBot, SWORDS, MAARS, Warrior X700.

The Scout represents a new level of an unmanned reconnaissance. It performs reconnaissance and takes part in operations as a tactical combat equipment, and namely in urban area, with is interlaced with narrow streets or other premises with hindered approach.

It can pass obstacles and it moves very well in ruins of buildings. It was successfully tested by the US Army in combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Its advantages mainly include a small weight, relatively small dimensions (after having been assembled to a portable state) allowing the soldier to carry it as a hand-held briefcase.

It is an ideal equipment for reconnaissance of dangerous and inaccessible premises (unexamined rooms), where it is the first in assessing threats or targets and so it does not expose the lives of soldiers to any risk, who would have had to search through unknown premises themselves without its assistance, whereby the risk of surprise by an enemy would have been significantly higher, of course.

It sends these processed data to its crew, in sufficient distance for not to be threatened by a sudden and unexpected attack by an enemy.

They can then plan their measures based on information as well as on image transfer in case that they detect an enemy´s position, ambush or an early detection of an improvised explosive device.

The military member operating this reconnaissance robot can directly take a decision based on information gathered by a robot or to pass this information to a combat unit that can defeat an enemy with no greater problems.

PackBoat’s clearance is 0.20 m (a telescopic arm with a camera and other sensor accessories are not engaged) and in case with a full load (and a full reconnaissance equipment) it weight is 18 kg. It has also five versatile open departments to place a useful load.

Additional improvement and equipment with new non-combat and combat elements are possible as well. The PackBoat Scout is supposed to resist hits equivalent to 400G that assigns it to a class of the most mechanically resistant robots.

By the words of the manufacturer it can withstand a fall from stairs from the 4th floor with no serious damage, as well as a subsequent hit e.g. on a solid concrete.

This feature is important mainly in a situation, when it would be performing a reconnaissance in an unknown building, where it eventually could lose stability in climbing or descending the stairs or into/from a building.

Explorer version can send back an image as well as a sound by a radio together with data collected by sensors in a real time.

Reconnaissance of buildings, crashed houses,-rescue operations, bunkers, premises that are dangerous for men or particularly inaccessible.

Explorer contains a flexible infinitely revolving and pan tilt able head and it can expand it from a chassis and to allow an operator to have a look over an obstacle and to gain a perspective sight.

It can also detect backpacks with camouflaged explosives or other improvised explosive devices (home-made also, hidden weapons and ammunition).

EOD version is assigned for different tasks-to secure and to remove explosive and artillery ammunition (unexploded artillery shells and other heavy ammunition, improvised explosive devices).

It is similarly resistant as the Scout version, assigned to search for and to execute reconnaissance of trapped mines, grenades or very dangerous remotely controlled improvised explosive devices made by terrorists (so called road side bombs).

It meets a wide range of EOD tasks, with no threat to human life of an operator operating a robot, in particularly in case of an early explosion of ammunition.

Easy deployment

It is able to handle with various standard, as well as improvised explosive devices safely and thereafter to neutralize them. It is equipped with a light and very resistant manipulator, ranging in any direction up to 2 m, and at this distance it can handle with an explosive and a primer.

Movability is ensured in different terrains (rough stones, gravel), and it is able to move even on a challenging, as well as in a mountain terrain, also on the sand and mud. Fully loaded it weights only 24 kg.

It is deployable in hardly accessible places, various corridors, shafts, chasses of the plane, train etc. The equipment has for various tasks a standard field armament for its disposal.

Nowadays it has been replaced by Warrior X700 (more mature PackBoat version with a similar configuration having slightly bigger dimensions than PackBoat).

In the medium-heavy to heavy category, the unmanned vehicle of this category can serve not only for a battlefield reconnaissance and areas of interest.

But also for their deployment in a combat, either as main combat assets, but also as a support for own troops (a fire support) or as a support for a transportation of various cargoes, ammunition, equipment for units fighting in front lines, as well as for units, whose supply is hindered for any reason so that a demanding terrain or threats for commonly used ways of supply, when there is a great threat of attack on a supplying vehicle by an enemy.

This category includes vehicles with a weight from several hundred up to about 2 – 3 tons as vehicles of types as ARV, MULE-T, MS-1 Ripsaw, Gladiator TUGV.

MULE-T is a supporting and supply unmanned ground infantry company vehicle-UGV. Nowadays there are about 100 pieces deployed in Iraq, from 2013 till 2015 years there should be in the US Army about 2000 to 2500 pieces of such vehicles, in which at least a half in a combat version with controlled anti-tank controlled missiles (PTRS) and non-controlled anti-personnel rockets by adding a rapid fire canon of 30 mm calibre, or a heavy machine-gun of 7, 62 mm calibre up to 12, 7 mm).

One of the most surprising aspects of the MULE UGV is a combination of a hybrid electric and diesel drive unit. UGV has more chambers mounted around it, providing a vision in several modes.

Thus, over all the future of the UGV is going to serve as a new tool in the battlefield of 21st Century as militaries are unwilling to take unnecessary risks, rather use technology for best awareness of the situation where high value operations are going to mounted.