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 were tasked by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) to design, develop, and test a fleet of four Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate (GUSS) vehicles. GUSS systems are optionally unmanned and autonomous vehicles that reduce the dependence of dispersed ground combat elements on external resupply, reduce the loads carried by the dismounted Warfighter, and aid casualty evacuation. Warfighters each carry up to 90lbs of equipment; this functionality lightens the load of the dismounted Warfighter and increases the durations units that units can operate independently.
GUSS can carry approximately 1800 lbs and is designed for autonomous speeds of 5mph, or about the speed of dismounted troops. It operates in three modes: tele-operated, semi-autonomous and autonomous. It can also travel on all types of terrain, in the day, night and even inclement weather.
TORC components (hardware and software) make up the key components of the autonomous vehicle systems that Virginia Tech installed on existing Polaris MVRS700 6x6 platforms to create the four GUSS robotic systems. The Drive-by-Wire System and SafeStop, were used in the conversion of the base vehicle. Additionally, TORC provided the required computing modules and autonomous navigation software for unmanned and autonomous operation. This included a localization module and the main processors for sensors data and autonomous decision making.
Finally, the WaySight, a multi-functional handheld operator control unit, was used as the primary operator interface for the GUSS vehicles. Using the 1lb WaySight, the dismounted Warfighter can easily command the vehicles 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 GUSS 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.
The mission of GUSS - supporting a squad of Marines for extended multi-day patrols, sometimes off road in completely unmapped areas - guided its development with continual feedback by Marines testing the system. "Our immediate goal to showcase the GUSS technology through experimentation is a success," said Brent Azzarelli, NSWC Dahlgren Division GUSS Project Manager, after the MCWL Enhanced Company Operations Limited Objective Experiment (LOE) 4. "GUSS is pushing the envelope on small tactical vehicle autonomy and obstacle avoidance, and we are optimistic that this technology will bring a capability to the warfighter in the very near future."