Mobile Weapons Control Station [VIDEO]

AMREL is well known for its Operator Control Units for Unmanned Ground Vehicles.  We also make control systems for other kinds of solutions as well.  Nicknamed “the DK Flipper,” this dual-screen mobile weapons control station has a separate display for power and video input. This customized DK10 tablet acts as a force multiplier by enabling a single person to control several Remotely Operated Weapon Stations (ROWS).

tablet-dk-flipper.3

Check out this video of the DK Flipper in action,

controlling a .50 caliber machine gun.

What the heck is an Unmanned Ground Engineering Vehicle?

Recently, Tom Green, founder and editor-in-chief of Robotics Business Review put on a webinar about an Unmanned Ground Engineering Vehicle (UGEV).  Before I explain what a UGEV is, a little background.

In the webinar, Tom Green noted that we are soon approaching the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima accident and the thirtieth of the Chernobyl disaster. He said that 60,000 Russian (and Ukrainian) workers were exposed to radiation at Chernobyl and that 6,000 have since died (BTW, the exact number of casualties form this accident is fervently debated). Many were critically exposed when they operated vehicles to dump thousands of tons of concrete on the nuclear plant itself. Vehicles are pictured below:

UGEV chernobyl

To this day, Green noted, these vehicles are still too irradiated to use.  Obviously, many casualties could be avoided if the proper unmanned systems were available. He wondered if anyone had developed an appropriate system. (The lack of nuclear disaster robots was discussed in this blog in: Where are the Japanese robots ).

Unmanned systems operating in nuclear disasters have all sorts of problems. Radiation affects their CCD (electronic light sensor) and other electronics. Clearing away the concrete and rubble can be a formidable task. Green went in search for what he called a “tough boy.”

He found one in Tel Aviv. Agritechnique Engineering had developed what is described as an Unmanned Ground Engineering Vehicle (UGEV). Specifically created to operate in nuclear disasters, this UGEV can move as fast as 20KM per hour, has one of the strongest undercarriages on the market, can breach doors, beak down walls, and has a boom that lifts two tons. Built by Avner Opperman (CEO of Agritechnique) who has 40 years of earth-moving experience, Green enthusiastically proclaimed that he had found his “tough boy.”UGEV 1

By far the coolest thing about the UGEV is its versatility. The boom can be fitted with up to 80 different tools, including hydraulic hammers, cutting discs, clamps, and buckets. Carried in attached storage compartments, tools have their own IP. The boom can autonomously switch tools out in the field, matching them to their appropriate tasks. A fully automatic quick coupler hydraulic assembly utilizes the tools with 2 x 55° tilt and endless 360° range of motion.UGEV coupler assembly

Opperman designed the flexible tool system with the idea that the UGEV could perform multiple tasks, and be capable of adapting to a wide a variety of needs as they occurred in the field. He wanted an unmanned system that could replace the many different kinds that are used now in disasters.

View video below.

UGEV specs

You can read also about it in Robotics Business Review.

My first reaction to the UGEV was favorable. It reminded me of the Flexbay and Flexpedient concepts that AMREL had successfully incorporated into our mobile rugged platforms. We created Operator Control Units with Flexbays that enabled personnel to switch applications in the field. The military loved how it increased operational range and simplified logistics. They deployed thousands in theater. Similarly, our Flexpedient® AT80 tablets can be modified to a wide variety of applications, enabling quick customization. New product developers have seized upon it as a way of getting their solutions to market faster and more economically.

However, it’s one thing to create mobile rugged computer platforms that are interoperable and flexible. It is another to build a vehicle that is an “all in one” unit, i.e. one that replaces a heterogeneous collection of unmanned systems as Opperman advocates.

While UGEV undoubtedly looks capable of clearing away debris and pouring cement (which is what Green was looking for), can it really replace the mixed lot of unmanned systems that are currently used?  Is it even a good idea?   For one thing, the UGEV is big.  It’s 13 feet long and almost 6 feet wide. It’s difficult to imagine it fitting into the narrower spaces in the interior areas of some nuclear plants.

I am not an expert in disaster robotics, but Dr. Robin Murphy of Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) is.  She has written that for disasters: “ground robots are generally not useful” (CRASAR).  She has also said that “…there is not a single robot that will work for all missions” (CRASAR).

The biggest problem with the UGEV – and all disaster robotics – is that no one wants to pay for them. Writing for Slate William Slaeton noted, “Power companies want cheap robots that can replace workers and are always useful. They don’t want robots expensively equipped to handle unlikely nightmare scenarios.”  They prefer the time-tested technique of pretending nothing bad will ever happen.

What do you think?  Is the UGEV the revolution that Green and Opperman think it is, or is it a technological dead-end? Send us your opinions to editor@amrel.com  (please note that your messages may be used in future blog posts).

How to buy the right biometric device

Biometrics is of one the world’s most important emerging technologies. They are used to accurately identify criminals, disburse benefits, manage events, protect financial transactions, authorize access, and fight fraud.  If you are considering buying a biometric device, here are a few questions that you need to ask.

1) Do you need to read this article? Most biometric transactions are described as verifications, i.e. are you who you say you are? An example would be laptops and smartphones that have a fingerprint sensor that identifies authorized users. Verification can be performed by relativity simple technologies. A much more challenging application is enrollment, in which biometric information from an individual is captured and stored. Purchasing and deploying an enrollment device involves a very complex evaluative process, poses numerous risks, and may incur unforeseen expenses. If you are looking for a mobile enrollment device, this article is for you.

2) Do you need an enrollment device that is mobile? Mobile biometric devices save time, money, and hassle. Consider the following three scenarios:

• Forward-based soldiers enrolling the inhabitants of a village.

• Policemen enrolling a suspect in the field.

• Event managers enrolling clients at an entertainment/sports venue.

In each of the above examples, mobile frees the workers from the chore of ferrying the enrollees back to a base/station/office to use a stationary biometric device. For most applications, the mobility of an enrollment device is an enormous advantage.

In spite of the benefits, many project managers discard the possibility of a mobile biometric device that has enrollment capabilities, because they believe the technological difficulties are too great or costly. This is unfortunate because economic, practical solutions are available.

3) What modality do you want? Biometric modalities include fingerprint, palm veins, facial recognition, DNA, palm print, iris recognition, retina and odor/scent.

By far and away, the most established, popular, and practical modality is fingerprinting. Fingerprints have the largest, most complete databases available, which is an enormous advantage for the purposes of identification. However, fingerprints have their problems. The fingerprints of the elderly and farm workers have been known to become so worn that they are unusable. This is one reason that it is strongly recommended that your biometric device is multimodal. In addition, using more than one modality reduces the problems of noisy data, “spoofing”(fraud), and unacceptable error rates.

Iris and facial recognition are popular complementary modalities to fingerprinting, but you need to evaluate the specific needs of your application. For example, police like cameras, so they can take pictures of gang tattoos. If you are deploying a biometric device for financial applications in Japan, palm vein, which is popular there, would warrant serious consideration.

4) Do I need a device with multiple fingerprint enrollment capability? Experts strongly recommended enrolling more than one finger. Minor injuries and temporary disabilities can compromise the usability of captured images of a single finger.

5) Do you need access to large databases? This really depends on your application. For example, I use a fingerprint sensor to obtain access to my gym. I assume that my gym doesn’t care about interacting with larger databases that local and national governments use to track criminals. They only want to compare my fingerprints with their client list. However, police departments, FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security need to exchange data with other government databases.

Keep in mind special requirements for specific applications. For example, police departments may need compliance with FirstNet standards. Military applications may need special encryption capabilities. More than one buyer has had to replace their entire line of recently purchased biometric devices because they did not meet the requirements for interaction with large databases.

6) What are the requirements for accesses to national and local databases? The most commonly used national database, the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Information System (IAFIS), has very strict standards for the Electronic Fingerprint Templates (EFT) that it accepts. Standards include FAP-45 (Appendix F) and PIV. FAP-45 is the stricter “high-throughput” standard; it is the one that is most likely to affect busy institutional use.

7) How important is the quality of the fingerprint images that my device captures? Very. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) research revealed that image quality directly impacts identification match accuracy. By deploying the highest quality sensors on the most reliable platforms, you can reduce missed identifications/verifications of a subject, additional secondary workload processes, and overall examiner workloads.

8) What kind of fingerprint sensor should I look for? Get a device with a Light Emitting Sensor (LES) sensor. LES multilayer, polymer composite film resists abrasion, operates at extreme temperatures, and isn’t affected by fog or condensation. Unlike traditional optical sensors, direct and bright sunlight do not diminish its ability to capture high quality fingerprint images. Compared to  old-fashion systems, the LES sensor is less sensitive to oils left behind from previous users; other sensors need to be cleaned after each capture.

9) What kind of mobile platform should I look for? Get a rugged device; preferably one with a high IP rating and has met military environmental standards, such as MIL-STD 810. You will spend more on the initial cost, but will save in the long run on repair, lost data, downtime, and lost work hours. Public safety officers, relief workers, and warfighters work in harsh environments. They need devices that can get dirty, get wet, take a beating, and still successfully operate.

If you can answer the above questions, you are ready to get started in your search for a mobile enrollment device. Of course, there are many other factors to be considered. If you have any questions, feel free to contact one of AMREL Application Engineers at (800) 8826735.

For over 30 years, AMREL has been a leader in developing highly reliable, fully rugged mobile solutions that operate in the most demanding environments. We supply more than multi-modal handhelds for collection, enrollment, and identification; we provide a generation of expertise.  We customize even low-volume orders to craft solutions that are perfect for your needs. See our complete line of biometric devices here.

You Can Virtually Become a Rugged Tablet Manufacturer

Sometimes it takes an outsider to state the obvious. AMREL built the Flexpedient® AT80 Android Tablet to be an infinitely configurable computer platform that could be customized quickly and simply. Still we were surprised when Conrad Blickenstorfer, Editor in Chief of Rugged PC review began his analysis of the AT80 tablet with the headline, “Your company, too, can be a virtual rugged tablet manufacturer with this eminently sensible, customizable, personalizable 8-inch Android device.”

While AMREL saw the AT80 as a practical way to speed product development through customized off-the-shelf platforms, we hadn’t really thought of it as an opportunity for white labeling rugged tablets. Now that Conrad has said it, it seems obvious. As he writes in his review:

“Does that mean it’s like going on Dell’s or Apple’s online store and click all the options you want? Yes, but it goes beyond that. Customers — and we’re really talking enterprise and government customers here — aren’t limited to just picking a few options; they can specify very detailed configuration requests, whatever they may be, and then select from no fewer than ten different colors and add their own logo and brand to the tablet. AT80 customers, in other words, become virtual manufacturers….

“…All of this makes this AMREL tablet far more than just a tablet with a bunch of options. For customers, it’s more like specifying their very own tablet, either for their own use, for resale, or for packaging with specialized software.”

Conrad was impressed with the AT80’s toughness (“We put the tablet through its paces in ice and snow, and it never missed a beat”), as well as its light weight and thinness (less than an inch). He also praised the quality of the back and front cameras, which is impressive to those who follow Conrad’s work; one of his pet peeves is the poor quality of cameras on rugged computers.

Conrad wrote:

“When the AMREL AT80 first came into our lab, we didn’t quite know what to make of it. It was just so different from AMREL’s (or anyone else’s) rugged tablets. But the more we examined it and used it, the more we liked it. If the AT80 were a vehicle, it’d be a Jeep. Basic, tough, sensible, indestructible. But whereas Jeeps have always been bare-bones and not terribly refined, the AT80 feels very high-tech despite its basic construction, and it operates as smoothly and responsively as any consumer smartphone or tablet.”

Download AT80’s datasheet from AT80.amrel.com and ask about our current promotion.

The AT80 is just the latest platform that AMREL has developed for quick and easy customization. One of AMREL’s mottos is “We don’t just sell rugged computers. We sell rugged customized solutions.” See a sample of our customized solutions at computers.amrel.com/custom-solutions. To speak to one of AMREL’s Customized Solution Engineers, call 800-882-6735 or email cdinfo@amrel.com