BAE Systems takes robotics forward


A BAE Systems-led team will develop miniature robots for military use.BAE Systems is leading a team of scientists that will develop miniature robots to improve military situational awareness and place machines rather than people in harm`s way.

The multinational company – which has a significant South African footprint – has signed a $38 million agreement with the US Army Research Laboratory to lead an alliance of researchers and scientists from the army, academia and industry.

The Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (Mast) Collaborative Technology Alliance will research and develop advanced robotic equipment for use in urban environments and complex terrain, such as mountains and caves.

The alliance will create an autonomous, multifunctional collection of miniature intelligence-gathering robots that can operate in places too inaccessible or dangerous for humans.

“Robotic platforms extend the ‘warfighter`s` senses and reach, providing operational capabilities that would otherwise be costly, impossible, or deadly to achieve,” says Mast cooperative agreement manager for the Army Research Laboratory Dr Joseph Mait. “The Mast alliance is a highly-collaborative effort, with each partner from government, academia and industry playing a significant role.”

Mast will advance fundamental science and technology for future robotic systems in several key areas, including small-scale aeromechanics and ambulation; propulsion; sensing, processing and communications; navigation and control; microdevices and integration; platform packaging; and systems architectures.

“The technologies that will be developed under Mast represent capabilities and techniques that will influence nearly all of the products that BAE Systems will develop and produce in the future,” says Steve Scalera, Mast programme manager for BAE Systems, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. “We and our alliance partners have committed our brightest minds to make the Mast programme a success.”

The alliance has a planned duration of five years, with an option to extend for an additional five years. Mast consists of four primary research areas, led by four principal alliance members: BAE Systems will lead microsystems integration, the University of Michigan will lead microelectronics, the University of Maryland will lead microsystem mechanics, and the University of Pennsylvania will lead processing for autonomous operation.

The alliance also has five general members participating in one or more of the research areas: the University of California, at Berkeley, the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of New Mexico, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

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