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Center for Defense Robotics Awards Federally-Funded Robotics Technology Development Projects
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed Nov 26, 2006
More Security and Defense stories
* NCDR doubled number of and tripled value of projects it funded in FY 2005

* Four projects involved teaming PA-based companies and/or universities with entities outside PA

The National Center for Defense Robotics (NCDR), an initiative of The Technology Collaborative, today announced that during the Federal Government Fiscal Year 2006 (GFY06) ending September 30, 2006, it was awarded a total of 15 task orders totaling $5.065 million and in turn awarded 14 robotics technology development project sub- contracts totaling $4.335 million to 13 companies and universities, including eight based in Pennsylvania and five based outside the state. This represents a substantial increase over the $1.3 million awarded to the NCDR and six tasks totaling $685,000 in turn awarded by the NCDR to its sub-contractors in GFY05 (ending 9/30/05).

“The NCDR made great progress in the past year and has now completed the transition from start-up to full operations,” commented Bill Thomasmeyer, President of the NCDR. “The NCDR was able to achieve these results with only a modest increase in overhead, as the scale of the funded projects tripled, from an average of $115,000 in GFY05 to an average of $310,000 in GFY06. As a result, the NCDR is now operating at a level that enables it to direct over 85% of its total funding for robotics technology development projects undertaken by mostly small companies and universities.”

Another goal of the NCDR, to forge joint ventures and partnerships among companies, universities, and Government organizations across the country, also started to come to fruition in GFY06, as four of the awarded projects involved teaming PA-based companies and/or universities with outside-the-state companies and government organizations.

“The substantial increase in federal funding the NCDR has been able to secure over the past year is significant for several reasons,” commented Jared Cohon, co-chair of the Board of Directors of TTC. “It reinforces the region’s leadership role in developing critical robotics technologies for defense and homeland security purposes; it positions Pennsylvania as a hotbed of opportunity for those seeking jobs in the robotics and related electronics fields; and it confirms the confidence the U.S. Government has in the NCDR and its knowledge of the capabilities offered by companies across the Commonwealth.”

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 GFY06 under this contract are:

* Semi-Autonomous Behaviors to Support Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Operation: A project subcontracted to Applied Perception Inc., based in Cranberry, PA, continues Semi-Autonomous Robotic Ordnance Neutralization Systems (SARONS) vehicle research and development by selecting and implementing sensors and developing new interfaces that will provide simple obstacle detection as well as the ability to take actions under general operator supervision, rather than direct operator control.

* Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JAUS) Interface for RAPTOR Manipulation: A project subcontracted to AEA Technology Engineering Solutions, based in Pittsburgh, PA, to develop software required to operate a manipulator subsystem using JAUS message sets as the interface and to develop any additional software for the proper operation of the manipulator arm.

* Scalable Solutions for Manipulators on Unmanned Platforms: A project subcontracted to AEA Technology Engineering Solutions, based in Pittsburgh, PA, to analyze the feasibility of scaling down a large scale hydraulic manipulator onto battery-powered robotic platforms in weight classes from 50 to 300 pounds, addressing areas such as electrical and mechanical integration, manipulator control, platform performance, power and environmental issues.

* Route Clearance and Interrogation System: A project subcontracted to Terramite Corporation, based in Charleston, WV, to provide a system, capable of being towed by currently available units, to remotely uncover potential explosive hazards as well as to clear debris from a route, after determining if it contains an explosive hazard, so as to avoid impeding the movement of ground forces or leaving a location suitable for concealing an explosive hazard.

* Fuel Line Inspection System for the Army Inland Petroleum Distribution System (IPDS): A project subcontracted to RedZone Robotics, based in Homestead, PA, to develop an understanding of the operational needs for a system used for the inspection of the IPDS, focusing on operational requirements such as system employment, system retrieval, and system weight and volume.

* High-Accuracy, Network-Centric GPS Positioning and Navigation for Collaborative Semi-Autonomous Unmanned Vehicle Operations: A program subcontracted to Geodetics, based in San Diego, CA, to enhance and test a GPS-based embedded positioning and navigation system intended for integration into various robotic platforms through the management of several reference stations in the GPS network and by delivering RTD corrections to the mobile platforms for accurate positioning.

* Cooperative Robotic Behaviors for Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Detection and Clearance: A project subcontracted to Carnegie Mellon University to develop improved algorithms that allow for more efficient searches, guarantee complete coverage, and fully utilize a team of unmanned ground vehicles to perform autonomous, UXO clearing operations in a GPS-denied area.

* Segway RMP-400 Mounted Payloads and Capabilities to Support Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Operation: A project subcontracted to Applied Perception Inc., based in Cranberry, PA, to develop a JAUS-compliant unmanned vehicle system based on the Segway RMP 400 that is capable of transporting heavy EOD tools under tele-operated control.

* Health Monitoring and Vehicle Self-Diagnostics for Robotics Systems: A project subcontracted to iRobot Corporation, based in Burlington, MA, and Penn State University, to analyze the dominant failure modes present on robotic systems and develop a prototype health monitoring system capable of monitoring the operating parameters of small unmanned ground vehicles and detecting the onset of such failure modes.

* Readily Available and Maintainable Robot (RAMBOT) for EOD: A project subcontracted to the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation based in Fairmont, WV, to conduct a detailed analysis of the current, experimental RAMBOT configuration, devise and implement recommended improvements, and otherwise determine how the existing design might be transitioned to a prototype production version.

* Man Transportable Robotic System (MTRS) Radio Repeater System: A project jointly subcontracted to Rajant Corporation, based in Malvern, PA, and BBN Technologies, based in Cambridge, MA, to develop a brick-sized, radio repeater capable of being automatically deployed, on-demand, from a tele-operated unmanned ground vehicle in order to extend its range and improve its ability to operate in non line-of-sight environments.

EOC-PSU Prime Contract: Automated Assembly and Integration of Electro- Optic Devices
This contract was awarded to the National Center for Defense Robotics to perform research and development of agile robotics related technologies to drastically reduce the cost of designing, engineering, producing, inspecting, integrating, and testing electro-optic sensors for use in unmanned vehicles and other defense related applications. Project subcontracts awarded in GFY06 by the NCDR under this contract are:

* “Precision Assembly Minifactory”—Small Electro-Optics Device Assembly—project subcontracted to Converge Robotics and Carnegie Mellon University to research techniques for micron level assembly of electro-optical devices through the investigation of existing equipment in use for micron level assembly and the development of equipment requirements for improved assembly precision, repeatability and reliability.

* Vacuum Compatible Nanometer Precision Maglev Stage Capability—project subcontracted to Philips Applied Technologies, located in Houston, PA, to develop and demonstrate agile robotics-related technologies with the goal of drastically reducing the cost of designing, engineering and producing electro-optic sensors for use in unmanned vehicles and other defense-related applications.

* “SLAM in a Box”—Robotic Navigation and Situational Awareness Without GPS—project subcontracted to RedZone Robotics, located in Pittsburgh, PA, to design a rugged, multi-modal sensor pod to support autonomous navigation, Reconnaissance Selection and Target Acquisition (RSTA), Situational Awareness (SA), and provide Position Location Information (PLI) without GPS.

The Technology Collaborative

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