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National Center for Defense Robotics Awarded “Dragon Runner” Robots Project for Army Evaluation
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed Jun 30, 2005
More Security and Defense stories
The National Center for Defense Robotics (NCDR), an initiative of The Technology Collaborative, today announced that it was awarded a task order under its U.S. Government Prime Contract #N00164-05-D-6647 with the United States Navy at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana to produce two Dragon unner robots for delivery to the Robotic Systems Joint Program Office (RS/JPO) in Huntsville, Alabama. The NCDR has in turn subcontracted with Automatika, Inc., a developer of high value added novel robotic and automation systems, to manufacture and deliver the evaluation Dragon Runner units. The units are primarily intended to be evaluated and assessed for potential use by the U.S. Army.

Initially developed in 2004 by Carnegie Mellon University and Automatika under contract to the U. S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, the Dragon Runner was designed to meet the Marines’ need for a man-portable, rapidly deployable robot that can operate in rugged environments and a variety of uncertain settings. “By acting as their eyes and ears in blind situations such as around corners and inside buildings, the Dragon Runner enables U.S. soldiers to immediately assess the level of danger and make better decisions”, commented Colonel Terry Griffin, project manager of the RS/JPO.

“This award is indicative, in general, of the military’s growing commitment to unmanned ground vehicles and, specifically, of the Army’s initial interest in the Dragon Runner based on the favorable results that the Marines have had with it to date”, commented Bill Thomasmeyer, President of the NCDR and Executive Vice-President of The Technology Collaborative. “It’s also a development that could potentially lead to greater military demand for the Dragon Runner and to increased jobs in southwestern Pennsylvania should production ramp in order to meet such an increase in demand.”

The Dragon Runner is a 16 pound, highly compact, ultra-durable unmanned vehicle that can be thrown and/or remotely guided into buildings or other urban environments. Once deployed, soldiers easily and rapidly maneuver the robot via an intuitive, handheld controller to view the situation and quickly assess the potential for harm to nearby soldiers. “The Dragon Runner is a truly “backpackable”, “throwable” robot, developed precisely to operate in volatile urban environments”, explained Dr. Hagen Schempf, Chairman and Chief Scientist of Automatika. “We are confident that the Army will recognize the same value in the DragonRunner that the Marines have in terms of its ability to reduce the number of military and civilian casualties that result from urban warfare.”

Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute and Automatika worked jointly to develop Dragon Runner, contributing various components based on each organization’s expertise. Automatika developed the electronics or “brains” of the robot as well as the impact-resistant ‘tough’ outer shell or body of the robot; Carnegie Mellon developed the drive train, user interface, backpack and software and also integrated all components of the system.

Automatika has licensed the Carnegie Mellon technology incorporated into DragonRunner, positioning the company to manufacture the robot on a larger scale once the military gains experience with the initially deployed units and determines the need for additional systems.

Automatika also plans to make the system available for civilian defense applications such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, SWAT, and Police and Fire departments.

About The National Center for Defense Robotics
The National Center for Defense Robotics, an initiative of The Technology Collaborative, procures Federal funding for technology development projects intended to meet unmet government needs by transitioning agile robotics technology for current and planned unmanned military systems. The NCDR has established the Agile Robotics Alliance, a national consortium of small companies, universities, government agencies, and defense contractors to undertake
these projects.

About Automatika, Inc.
Automatika, Inc. was founded in 1995 and has offices and prototyping facilities in Pittsburgh, PA. Automatika provides consulting services and feasibility assessments, and the invention, design, system prototyping, and product manufacturing of high value added novel robotic and automation systems. Areas of expertise include military and civil defense applications, Oil and Gas applications, remote and hazardous applications, industrial robotics and automation, food
processing, and engineering consulting services.

About Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute
The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University was established in 1979 to conduct basic and applied research in robotics technologies relevant to industrial and societal tasks. Seeking to combine the practical and the theoretical, the Robotics Institute has diversified its efforts and approaches to robotics science while retaining its original goal of realizing the potential of the robotics field.

Add per DFARS 252.235-7010:
This release is based upon work supported by the United States Navy, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane, Indiana, under Prime Contract No. N00164-05-D-6647. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Navy, Naval Surface Warfare Center.

Lynn Seay
Principal, prwerks, LLC

Office: (412) 918-0094
Cell: (412) 298-7206

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