Rheinmetall to lead European robo-vehicle programme


The European Defence Agency (EDA) has given awarded a Rheinmetall-led consortium a €4 million contract to develop and demonstrate an unmanned ground vehicle.

Rheinmetall Defence, Diehl BGT Defence, ECA and Thales Optronique will seek to show how unmanned vehicles can in future protect troops deployed in hazardous operations.

The Semi-Autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicle System Demonstrator (SAM-UGV), as it is tentatively known, will be a wheeled, all-terrain vehicle weighing between 300 and 400kg, roughly the size of a quad bike, the company says in a statement.

With a built-in navigation system and sophisticated computer technology, the SAM-UGV will be able to conduct a variety of missions by remote control as well as operating autonomously. The vehicle is to have a range of 400 kilometres and be able to operate for periods of up to 24 hours.

As well as performing long-range patrolling and monitoring missions, the SAM-UGV will be able to carry out NBC reconnaissance operations in potentially contaminated terrain.

The system’s suitability as a means of searching for improvised explosive devices will also be studied, responding to the acute threat these currently pose to forces deployed in global conflict zones.

Besides a satellite-supported inertial navigation system, the vehicle will feature a 3D laser radar, a camera system and ultrasonic sensors, enabling it to cope with its surroundings and avoid obstacles.
“In terms of content, this development project is strongly oriented to current and future military scenarios involving significant operational risks such as out-of-area deployments of the German Bundeswehr, whose troops are now subject to continuous, low-intensity attack by insurgent elements,” Rheinmetall says.

“Be it in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere, forces operating in crisis regions face an array of operational risks that are now as familiar as they are unpredictable: conflicts without clearly defined frontlines, where enemy combatants are generally difficult or impossible to identify, and whose callous, indiscriminate attacks often draw innocent civilians into the conflict.”
“Furthermore, nations taking part in international peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions are understandably eager to keep casualties as low as possible to avoid losing public support at home. One way of meeting this challenge is to use unmanned systems which operate autonomously and can perform a variety of missions, making sure that friendly personnel are not exposed to danger unnecessarily.”


Pic: A US Army robotic vehicle by way of illustration