May 2, 2006 Safeguarding the soldier is the key aim of the Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle – giving soldiers enhanced stand-off capability was the reason DARPA funded the Grand Challenge and backed up again two years later with the second challenge and is now holding the challenge in an urban area – such contests dramatically accelerated research into autonomous navigation and identified the most capable people to for the military to work with. The National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) is part of the Robotics Institute in Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science, unveiled Crusher last week. Carnegie Mellon vehicles finished a close second and third in the Grand Challenge though everyone knew they were at the bleeding edge of robotics knowledge, the Challenge just confirming it. Crusher demonstrates just what we can expect to see on the battlefield a decade from now. In what might well be seen as an offspring of the Grand Challenge, “Crusher” is a new breed of UGV – an NREC-designed, six-wheeled, all-wheel drive, hybrid electric, skid-steered, unmanned ground vehicle. The bohemoth weighs 14,000 pounds fully fueled, and is designed to carry a 3,000-pound payload – at this 17,000 pound total weight, two Crusher vehicles can be carried by a single C-130H aircraft and dropped into any region in the world. Once on the ground, Crusher can carry up to 8,000 pounds of payload without compromising its mobility – read that as 8000 pounds of smart stuff – any combination of cargo, armour, armaments, or surveillance equipment. Crusher is also designed to withstand extreme terrain, with the ability to take in its stride regular impacts with trees, boulders, fences, tree stumps and ditches at high speed. With six wheel independent drive, Crusher can go up and over almost anything, and if in the process it should get upside down, it moves its wheels to the other side of the vehicle and starts all over again. Crusher's hybrid electric system is silent, using a high-performance SAFT-built lithium ion battery module which delivers power to the six, in-wheel UQM traction motors located in the hub drive system of each wheel. Much, much, more … interesting stuff!