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Autonomous Vehicles

K-MAX unmanned helicopter sets payload record (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

The Unmanned K-MAX helicopter being developed by Kaman Corporation and Lockheed Martin has further demonstrated the potential of this type of aircraft in the field by completing a list of airdrop firsts. The milestones in payload weight and altitude were reached during a recent series of tests at the Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona where the KMAX (UAS) made guided airdrops via sling load at an altitude of 10,000 ft above sea level including a payload of 4,400 lbs.  Read More

German researchers have demonstrated a system that allows a car to be driven by thought co...

Since its formation in 2006, Freie Universität Berlin’s AutoNOMOS team has been researching and developing systems that could someday result in driverless, autonomous cars. Previously, they have successfully used an iPhone, an iPad, and an eye-tracking device to maneuver their Volkswagen Passat MadeInGermany test car. Now, using a commercially-available Emotiv EPOC brain-machine gaming interface, they have demonstrated that the car can be controlled by mind power.  Read More

Electric wheelchair fitted with laser line striper and other terrain assistance devices. C...

Many of the greatest civilian innovations can be traced back to military origins. Penicillin, radar, satellites and the Internet, just to name a few. So it is not uncommon for technologies developed for fighting wars to be found to have wider applications. The following idea is an example of this adaptation and is inspired by the important need of disabled veteran soldiers for independence and mobility. By using terrain sensing control systems designed for the guidance of autonomous vehicles on the battlefield, researchers have begun developing a system that will allow wheelchair users to access more areas than ever before.  Read More

The SARTRE project aims to automate slipstreaming of multiple vehicles on the highway

The European SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project, which is developing technology to automate slipstreaming of multiple vehicles on highways, is now a year into its three-year program. The first year has been spent ironing out the concept and investigating the requirements of a prototype system, as well as how people will react to using it. Now the program is set to enter the implementation phase, starting with the testing of a single lead and following vehicle.  Read More

The prototype of the next-generation AUV (Photo: Fraunhofer)

Engineers from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics are working on an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that would be inexpensive enough to use for industrial applications such as hull and dam inspection, yet independent enough that it wouldn’t require any kind of human control. Typically, more cumbersome but less costly remote operated vehicles (ROVs) are used for grunt work – they are connected to a ship on the surface by a tether, where a human operator controls them. The more technologically-advanced AUVs tend to be used more for well-funded research, but according to the engineers, one of the keys to creating “blue collar” AUVs is to overhaul the ways that they see, hear and think.  Read More

Oshkosh diesel-electric hybrid concept for Baja 1000 desert race

It has been an exciting year for hybrid power train development in major racing series, with the teams deciding that KERS will return to Formula One in 2011, the growing success of the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup and now the news that Oshkosh Corporation will be fielding a 400 bhp hybrid diesel-electric Light Concept Vehicle in the Baja 1000 desert race which begins later this week in Mexico. Perhaps even more interesting than the hybrid powertrain is its TAK-4 suspension which offers 20 inches of independent wheel travel.  Read More

Off the beaten track

Fancy a roadtrip? Don't have a driver? No problem! The team from VisLab have just completed a journey from across two continents in two autonomous vans – the longest single trip undertaken by an autonomous vehicle. Over the 8,000 miles (13,000km) there were only a few technical hiccups and it seems that border officials, the police, journalists and tired crew members were a bigger hazard than the tough road conditions.  Read More

Lockheed Martin's autonomous Squad Mission Support System carries gear and charges batteri...

The US Army’s Nett Warrior program involves equipping dismounted soldiers with wearable battle tracking electronics in order to increase situational awareness and reaction time and reduce the risk of “friendly fire”-related accidents. One Nett Warrior-equipped Infantry Brigade Combat Team requires a collection of batteries weighing 155 pounds (70 kg) for one 24-hour mission, and could consume the power of 140 batteries per day. That’s a lot of gear, and is the reason why aerospace firm Lockheed Martin first developed the Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) in 2005. An autonomous all-terrain vehicle that can follow troops in the field, the SMSS carries batteries, packs and other gear, and it now also serves as a mobile charging station.  Read More

AUVs, ROVs key to bringing back new Titanic images and data

Last week the RMS Titanic, Inc. finally finished up an unprecedented photography expedition at the site of the sunken Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland. The team obtained high-definition and even 3D images which surpassed any photos taken of the wreck site to date. They completed the mission just in time too, with Hurricane Igor ushering them back to shore, like a cranky museum security guard scolding you for taking too many pictures.  Read More

One of VisLab's VIAC autonomous vans

As of July 29th, two electric vans embarked from Belgrade, Serbia on a three-month road trip to Shanghai, China. Along the way, they will have to manage stop-and-go city traffic, extremes in weather, and even some stretches of off-road driving. All this would be a great test for their electric drive system, but the researchers from Italy’s VisLab put this expedition together mainly to test something else: their driverless vehicle technology. While each of the vans in the VisLab Intercontinental Autonomous Challenge (VIAC) will have passengers in the back seats, ready to take control if necessary, they will normally have no one at the steering wheel.  Read More

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