Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. has been breaking new ground in autonomous technology, and will soon roll out the Land Tamer UGV, a completely autonomous ATV.
The 6-wheeled Land Tamer unmanned ground vehicle is a modified Land Tamer amphibious ATV manufactured by PFM Manufacturing in Townsend, Montana. The Land Tamer UGV will be paired up with another of Sikorsky’s autonomous contraptions for deployment, the Optionally Piloted Black Hawk (OPBH) helicopter. Both machines are part of Sikorsky’s Extended Operational Reach with Autonomous Air and Ground Vehicles program that aim to reduce the need for human interactions in hostile environments.
Whether it be a warzone or natural disaster, this Land Tamer is here to not only tame, but survey and report. The process begins with the Black Hawk’s launch process that uses an internally developed mission management software. This software provides the “world model, sensor interfaces and the application programming interface that allows apps to be developed to add capability to the vehicle.” This system automatically chooses drop-off and landing spots, in addition to performing in-flight obstacle evasion.
When dropped off by the OBPH, the UGV will navigate on its own while the transport vehicle returns home. The Land Tamer is capable of detecting contaminations in areas that would have previously put human life in danger. The unmanned ground vehicle’s backend software, developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center, has been used in some of the group’s other projects, namely “Crusher,” the Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle, and “Boss,” their Chevy Tahoe that took first place at the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge.
If the autonomous Land Tamer keeps its factory specs, a turbo-diesel engine will put out either 60 or 80 HP, depending on configuration. A claimed cargo load capability of 1 ton on dry land and 1,600lbs over water should be enough to carry any sensors and equipment that may be needed. 33” 8-ply tractor tires can be manually controlled with a dual knob steering system should a driver be needed, and hydrostatic gear drive with 1.75” shafts mounted underneath a marine grade 6061 aluminum body ensures a low maintenance life style and 360-degree zero-radius turning.
As with many government projects, exact specs will be a closely guarded secret and in their current forms, both the OPBH and the autonomous Land Tamer are one-offs built to show proof of concept. While still in their infancy, developments like these will lay the groundwork we need to continue to further ourselves from harmful situations with the use of autonomous machines.
Demonstrations of the Land Tamer’s capabilities will begin in September 2015 in partnership with the US Army.