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DOD Adopting Commercial Technology to Control Unmanned Ground Vehicles

There has been a revolution in the techniques and capabilities of uncrewed ground vehicles occurring in the private sector over the past two decades. We're eager to bring these matured technologies back into the Department of Defense where initial work was inspired by the DARPA Grand Challenges."
Kevin O'Brien, technical director for the Defense Innovation Unit's autonomy portfolio

Substantial technical breakthroughs in unmanned ground vehicles have led to their use in high-risk missions, such as reconnaissance, with the goal of reducing dangers for troops and increasing risks for adversaries.  

The Army partnered with the Defense Innovation Unit to prototype a software package, as well as a process to adapt uncrewed vehicle technology to unmanned ground vehicles.  

The Ground Vehicle Autonomous Pathways project will prototype software for the navigation of uncrewed vehicles by fusing data from multiple sensors and allowing teleoperations of unmanned ground vehicles, said Kevin O'Brien, technical director for DIU's autonomy portfolio.  

The use of teleoperators ensures humans are in the control loop.  

The project will also provide a technical pipeline to continue rapid development and deployment of autonomous features as they become commercially available, he added.  

A tactical vehicle is parked on cement.
Unmanned Ground Vehicle
New technology could enable an unmanned ground vehicle to be programmed with Army/Defense Innovation Unit software, Lansing, Mich., Nov. 4, 2022.
Photo By: Army
VIRIN: 221104-O-D0439-001

"There has been a revolution in the techniques and capabilities of uncrewed ground vehicles occurring in the private sector over the past two decades. We're eager to bring these matured technologies back into the Department of Defense where initial work was inspired by the DARPA Grand Challenges," O'Brien said, referring to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's unmanned vehicle competitions.  

DIU received 33 responses to the Ground Vehicle Autonomous Pathways solicitation. A panel of DOD subject matter experts facilitated a "rigorous and competitive" process that resulted in the selection of two vendors, Applied Intuition Inc. and Kodiak Robotics, he said.  

"The DIU CSO [commercial solutions opening] process brought new vendors, with significant development and testing experience to raise the floor on autonomy in the DOD," said Army LTC Chris Orlowski, the product manager for the Army's Robotic Combat Vehicle program.   

"The commercial sector has invested heavily in this technology, and we are excited to see this in action by leveraging the self-driving technology that is working on American highways today," Orlowski added.

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