We are optimistic that this technology will bring a capability to the warfighter in the very near future.Brent Azzarelli, NSWC Dahlgren Division GUSS Project Manager
The Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Dahlgren Division, Virginia Tech, and TORC Robotics were selected by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) to design, develop, and test another off-road performance vehicle as a continuation to the original GUSS effort to support on-going Marine Corps experimentation with autonomous ground vehicles. The Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate Autonomous Internally Transportable Vehicle (GUSS AITV) is designed to reduce the dependence of dispersed ground combat elements on external resupply, reduce the loads carried by the dismounted Warfighter, and aid casualty evacuation.
The major evolution of this project is the change of the platform, to an M1161 Growler, or the ITV-LSV (Internally Transportable Vehicle – Light Strike Variant). The Growler was designed specifically as a light, fast attack vehicle that can be transported by the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. The ITV platform also has unique capabilities such as rear wheel steering and pneumatically controlled tire inflation and suspension controls, which made the platform a unique DBW integration challenge. GUSS AITV can easily switch between teleoperation and autonomous modes, but the platform can also be driven manually at any time.
The main goal of the GUSS AITV project was to replicate the original features from GUSS on a different vehicle platform. During this process, it was important to integrate the unique features found only on the new platform. This project is a good example of how all of the Robotic Systems offered by TORC come together to build a fully autonomous vehicle. The platform is capable of Tele-Operated or Autonomous control by utilizing a Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) sensor suite composed of an Inertial Navigation System (INS), cameras, and Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR). On-board perception and autonomy software receives the inputs from this sensor suite and both plans and controls the vehicle’s movement. Operators can control and monitor the performance of the system from multiple wireless Operator Control Units (OCUs). Additionally, both the SafeStop and PinPoint components were used.
The PinPoint provides the ability to move beyond the limitations of GPS systems and accurately track vehicle motion and orientation with dual GPS receivers. Pinpoint extends its navigational approach to multiple metrics, allowing for better positioning, orientation, velocity, and time measurement of the vehicles in question. No matter the reliability of the area in regards to GPS technology, PinPoint will not stop updating to ensure reliable navigation and positioning.
The GUSS AITV is also integrated with the WaySight, a multi-functional handheld operator control unit used as a supplemental operator interface. Using the 1lb WaySight, the dismounted Warfighter can easily command the vehicle in various modes depending on the missions being executed. The WaySight modes include “Target Mode” for rapid path planning using its sight-and-click waypoint tagging, “Follow Me” mode in which the vehicle follows autonomously at a predetermined distance, and “WE Mode” which allows for tele-operation of the vehicle. With a few button presses, the operator can quickly switch between modes and use the most appropriate method of robotic control as the situation changes.
Ultimately the GUSS AITV’s main purpose is to assist dismounted units by providing autonomous logistic resupply, acting as a small unit “Mule”, expediting casualty evacuations and enabling limited reconnaissance. This vehicle will lighten the load of each Marine, increase the duration units can operate independently and enhance unit’s ability to evacuate casualties to casualty collection points or landing zones. As part of the autonomous solution, the vehicle can also be autonomously returned to base without any assistance from a driver.
Brent Azzarelli, NSWC Dahlgren Division GUSS Project Manager stated, GUSS AITV was put through some rigorous testing in the Kahuku Training Area of Oahu's North Shore during RIMPAC 2014 as part of Marine Corps Warfighting Labs (MCWL) culminating experiment that was experimenting with the concept of Enhanced MAGTF Operations (EMO). The main purpose for the GUSS AITV technology insertion into the experiment was to determine the effectiveness of an autonomous ground vehicle providing expedited casualty evacuations and logistics resupply support to Marines, while employing MCWL's common robotic controller called the Tactical Robotic Controller (TRC). This was the first time GUSS AITV has had the opportunity to participate in an exercise with live force Marines, and it was also the first time that Marines were able to operate the vehicle while testing MCWL's operational future concepts. Experimentation efforts not only revealed strong points of the technology (like improved speed in evacuating casualties), but also brought to light some areas where the technology can be improved. Overall, the exercise in Hawaii provided a great deal of useful data that can be used by MCWL (and their Lead Systems Integrator (LSI); the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) and their team of Virginia Tech and TORC technologies) to determine what kind of future technologies and upgrades they wish to pursue. "With all the water GUSS can resupply, it lightened our packs to 40 lbs", said one Marine that was employed with GUSS AITV during the experiment.
Photo Credits: Sgt. Sarah Dietz