National Center for Defense Robotics Announces Receipt of Federal Government Navy Contract Awards
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed Oct 28, 2008
The NCDR has awarded a grant to four companies to perform research and development of advanced robotic systems as well as to conduct research and development on small to mid-sized unmanned vehicles.

The National Center for Defense Robotics (NCDR), an initiative of The Technology Collaborative, today announced that it recently awarded robotics technology development sub-contracts totaling $1.11 million to four organizations, including three based in Pennsylvania and one based outside the state. 

One of the companies that is benefiting from the NCDR funding is QinetiQ North America, which is developing semi-autonomous capabilities for the MTRS (Man Transportable Robotic System) version of its TALON® robot that is widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The grant from NCDR will enable us to continue to develop semi-autonomous capabilities for TALON®. In particular, NCDR’s support of this effort will lead to a suite of new technologies that can assist the EOD operator in reducing mission time while improving situational awareness”, commented Parag Batavia, Director of Projects and Operations at QinetiQ North America’s Technology Solutions Group. 

A goal of the NCDR is to forge joint ventures and partnerships among companies, universities, and Government organizations across the country in order to drive innovation. This was just the case with another one of the awarded projects as it involves teaming a Pittsburgh-based university with a company located in Massachusetts. 

For more detail on the three awarded, robotics technology project subcontracts, please see below.

USN NSWC Crane Prime Contract: Advanced Robotic Systems - This contract was awarded to the National Center for Defense Robotics to perform research and development of advanced robotic systems as well as to conduct research and development on small to mid-sized unmanned vehicles to maximize performance and decrease overall size and weight.  Project subcontracts awarded by the NCDR in GFY08 under this contract are:

Research and Development of Semi-Autonomous Capabilities for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) of Unmanned Ground Vehicles - A project subcontracted to Applied Perception Inc., now QinetiQ North America, based in Cranberry, PA, this project will build on previous efforts to determine if and how state-of-the-art technology could be used to add certain intelligent behaviors onto a Man Transportable Robotic System (MTRS) EOD robot in order to enable certain operational capabilities that would reduce the current need to micro-control tele-operated UGVs.

Research and Development of Improved Situational Awareness for Tele-Operation of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Robots - A project subcontracted to iRobot Corporation, based in Burlington, MA, and Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC), based in Pittsburgh, this project will develop improved situational awareness for integration onto a Man Transportable Robotic System (MTRS) EOD robot in order to enable certain operational capabilities that would reduce the current need to micro-control tele-operated UGVs.  While the most pressing current need is in the area of EOD robotics, improved situational awareness will significantly improve the operational effectiveness of unmanned systems in any mission area in which they are involved.

Research and Development of Enhanced Controllability of Snake Robots - A project subcontracted to Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, based in Pittsburgh, this project is envisioned to explore the improvement of two main areas in snake robot controllability: 1) develop a capability to provide intuitive controls for snake robot operations (i.e. a single control actuation mapped to a single motion) and 2) develop a capability where by the snake robot can be operated beyond the operator’s field of view, although still tethered, and provides the operator with indicators for robot orientation / translation progress as well increased situational awareness of surrounding environment (beyond a single nose mounted camera).

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