World’s First Personalized Rugged Android Tablet

at80

AMREL announces the launch of Flexpedient® AT80, world’s first personalized, rugged Android tablet.

With the Flexpedient ® AT80 rugged tablet, you can:

  • Choose colors to match your style
  • Co-brand by engraving a logo on the tablet to promote your organization
  • Integrate application modules, such as Common Access Card (CAC) reader, barcode readers, fingerprint scanner, etc.

Weighing only 1.65 pounds and less than 1 inch thick, this rugged tablet is designed to meet MIL-STD 810G and boasts an unusually durable IP67 rating. Built from the ground-up to be rugged, it is far tougher than a commercial tablet in a hardened case.

Inspired by aeronautic design, the tablet’s one-of-a-kind proprietary channel shields connectors, modules, and sensors. The protective channel provides a wide area of mechanical attachment points for easy customization or integration of application modules.

“The Flexpedient® AT80 rugged tablet enables true off-the-shelf customization,” explains Kalvin Chen, AMREL’s VP of Operations. “AT80’s unique channel design allowed a two-finger biometric sensor to be added in less than a week. This biometric tablet will be used by a major league baseball team to monitor admissions at games.

“AMREL has sold rugged computers to military and Public Safety markets for 30 years,” explains Mr. Chen. “Leveraging our decades of ruggedness expertise, we designed the AT80 to be durable, mobile, and lightweight for industrial and commercial sectors as well as outdoor enthusiasts.”

Since rugged computers need less repair and replacement, they make economic sense. The Flexpedient® AT80 is especially well-suited for enterprise or personal use, because of its thin, lightweight frame.

Mr. Chen reports that AMREL is already fielding queries for specialized connectors, sensor modules, and joysticks.

Standard features include Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), 8” 10-point multi-touch capacitive touchscreen display, front/back 5 MP cameras, 802.11 b/g/n, GPS, Bluetooth®.

Available for order now.  Learn more at:  AT80.amrel.com

See you at SOFIC

SOFIC 2015 v2

 

Get a sneak peek!  AMREL will show off its new rugged Android tablets & handheld devices at this year’s SOFIC!

AMREL will feature a preview of some its newest, most advanced rugged computing solutions including:

  • Android/Windows solutions, such our new Android handhelds.
  • Super-slender laptops, such as  the ROCKY RV11 the thinnest, rugged laptop on the market that has a 15.6” display.
  • Powerful handheld & tablets, including our new Flexpedient Android tablet.

 We customize, design, prototype, and deliver solutions faster than anyone

 Learn more at: computers.amrel.com

AMREL at MCB Camp Pendleton

AMREL will be displaying its latest and greatest at MCB Camp Pendleton on Tactical & Tech Day, Wednesday,  April 22, 2015. We will be showcasing our line of super-slim, ultra-rugged laptops, handhelds, and tablets.

Special sneak peak! Come and get a look at some of our special products before they’re released to the market, including:

  • AT80 Rugged Android Tablet
  • DS11, a tablet so thin you won’t believe it’s fully rugged
  • Many others

Also, on hand will be the RS11 and the RV11, the world’s thinnest, rugged laptops with 13.3″ and 15.6″ displays, respectively. And you won’t want to miss our Android APEX AH53 handheld, so tough it has an IP67 rating.

Learn more about our rugged mobile computing solutions at: computers.amrel.com

AMREL launches line of fully rugged displays

AMREL announces the launch of MOJAVE, a complete line of fully rugged displays. Display sizes include 10”, 15”, 19”, 22”, 24”, 40” and 46”.

Ruggeddisplays“Many of our clients have been asking for them,” explained Kalvin Chen, AMREL’s Vice President of Operations. “Since we do a lot of customizing, we are very sensitive to our customers’ needs.”

With the rise of information-oriented warfare, there has been an increased awareness about the importance of displays that can take a pounding. Truly tough displays are needed for military command center, in-vehicle, and stand-alone applications. There is also interest in using AMREL MOJAVE fully rugged displays in the industrial settings such as Oil & Gas, mining, and logistics.

AMREL MOJAVE fully rugged displays have been independently certified for the demanding MIL-STDs 810 and 461. They have been built to operate in extreme conditions, such as:

  • Shock
  • Severe temperatures
  • Strong, repetitive vibrations
  • Water
  • Sand
  • Everything else a hostile environmental can throw at them

“While Mojave fully rugged displays are new to the American market, they have been successfully used by European and other defense forces for some time,” stated Mr. Chen. “Anyone who buys an AMREL MOJAVE fully rugged display can be confident that not only was it built with 30 years of experience of supplying military-tough platforms, but also its durability has been proven in extremely challenging conditions.”

For more information, visit computers.amrel.com/displays

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Thinnest, Rugged Laptop with 15” Display is here!

RV11sliderclean1AMREL announced the launch of thinnest rugged laptop with a 15” display.  Leveraging 30+ years of experience of supplying rugged computers to warfighters as well as Public Safety officers, AMREL has developed a fully rugged laptop that is just 1.25 inch thick.

“Durable, rugged computers are traditionally regarded as heavy and cumbersome,” explained Kalvin Chen, AMREL’s VP of Operations.  “However, slimmed-down computers are becoming increasingly popular. At AMREL, we believe soldiers, police officers, and other end-users deserve the best of both worlds so we introduced our ‘Tough & Thin’ series.  This series is dedicated to reducing the size, weight, and power for their mission and application. The 15” ROCKY RV11 laptop is our latest addition.”

AMREL’s “Tough & Thin” series includes:

  • ROCKY DB6 – Atom-powered handheld that is the smallest rugged computer in the world with full Windows OS
  • ROCKY DF6 – ARM-based handheld which runs the Windows CE
  • ROCKY RS11 13” laptop – Only 1” thick
  • An Android handheld is expected to be released soon

“The ROCKY RV11 is an important member of this series,” states Mr. Chen, “because 15” is the size that most of our clients demand for laptop displays.”

Like all AMREL products, ROCKY RV11 is fully rugged.  Independently certified for MIL-STDs 810/ 461, and IP65, it comes standard with a durable Solid State Hard Drive.  Yet, it weighs only 8.16 pounds and is just 1.25 inches thick.

Despite its thinness, ROCKY RV11 doesn’t skimp on power. It has a powerful Intel® Core™ i7 Processor, well-suited for modern data-intensive applications.

Perfect for applications that require rigorous field work, heavy data input, and a large display, the ROCKY RV11can be used for:

  • Onsite Data Collection & Management
  • Front-Line Mapping & Situational Awareness
  • Oil & Gas, Mining, and Construction
  • Field Research & Surveying
  • Combat Control Solutions

To learn more about the RV11 click here.

Unmanned Underwater Vehicle maps Antarctic Ice [VIDEO]

An Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV)  braved the hostile Antarctic seas to give us a view of the underside of sea ice.  When combined with satellite and other data, this should produce the first 3-D map of Antarctic sea ice.

Read the scientific paper here and/or watch the Reuters video below. (Warning-short ad before the video)

 

AMREL at SEG International Exposition

segAMREL will be at the SEG International Exposition and 84th Annual Meeting.

  • Oct.26-31
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Booth# 1694

Come see us and be sure to ask us about the ROCKY DB6, the super lightweight, fully rugged computer that is being used in researching the Virginia’s Omega Cave system.

 


End-users want UGVs now

UGVs-resized-600Ground wars are winding down (kind of, maybe), so the speeded-up acquisition process for Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) is slowing down.  However, American soldiers are still performing explosive ordnance disposal.  Not only do they want their UGVs, but they also want them souped-up with more reliable communications, common controllers, and delivery trucks that automatically unload.  And they want them now.

National Defense Magazine published a highly informative article on the disconnect between end-user needs and the acquisition of UGVs.  If you want to know about the state of UGV development within each military service, or if you just need another reason to rail against the  notoriously slow procurement process, you got to read this article.

(The following article originally appeared in National Defense Magazine as Slow Pace of Robot Acquisition Programs Frustrates End Users.)

Ground robots from the outset of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were hailed as life-savers and an example of how off-the-shelf technologies could be sped into the field without the cumbersome Defense Department bureaucracy.

Those days are over.

End users of explosive ordnance disposal robots said at a recent conference that the Pentagon’s procurement process is clearly not working for them.

Meanwhile, a Navy EOD program of record to replace the off-the-shelf Talon and PackBot models has floundered. Entering its seventh year of development, it has failed to field its first lightweight robot, and the Air Force recently pulled out of the program, citing delays.

The Army also wants to produce a multi-purpose ground robot, but the earliest it could be fielded is 2021, a senior official said.

“The way the government acquires things through its acquisitions programs has to change,” said Chief Master Sgt. Douglas Moore, an Air Force EOD technician. 

In 2007, the Navy, the executive agent for producing bomb disposal robots, embarked on its Advanced EOD Robotic System (AEODRS) program, which would replace its heavy, Andros platforms that pre-dated the post-9/11 conflicts, as well as the off-the-shelf robots that were sped into the field as roadside bombs became a scourge in Iraq.

A Navy official at the National Defense Industrial Association ground robotics conference in San Antonio in 2008 described the family of three robots. The service would develop the system in three increments. Increment 1 would be a backpackable robot in the 35-pound range. Increment 2 would be around 130-pounds, somewhat similar to the size of the widely used PackBots and Talons, which must be transported in a vehicle. Increment 3 would be a large, towable robot intended for large ordnance. The 485-pound Andros robots those would replace are the only ground robot programs of record in the military today. All others were acquired through rapid equipping initiatives.

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The next-generation EOD robots would be based on an open architecture system, where components, sensors and tools could be swapped out as needed.

The Navy later announced that vendors would compete for contracts to supply the components rather than a winner-take-all competition to build and integrate the robots.  

Six years later, at the same NDIA conference held in College Park, Maryland, the Navy still had not fielded the basic 35-pound robot, and the Air Force said it would no longer participate in the increment 1 program. The Navy finally released its request for proposals for increment 1 components in June. 

“By the time we get it, it’s 10-year-old technology,” said Moore, who had heard the program referred to as “abbreviated.”

“I don’t know what ‘abbreviated’ means. But 10 years is not abbreviated for me. Absolutely not,” he added.

The lack of progress on the Navy’s program of record is prompting the Air Force to seek an off-the-shelf robot weighing under 30 pounds. A request for proposals for 160 systems, including 10 years of support, will be released in the first quarter of 2015, according to Robert Diltz, airbase acquisition branch chief at the Air Force Civil Engineering Center. 

Moore said: “That is part of the reason why the Air Force pulled out of the AEODRS increment 1 program. One, there were some slippages to the program that put some money at risk, and the technology by the time we would get it would not be what it is today.”

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The Army is also looking to field an upgradable robot with open architecture that would be able to perform multiple tasks, said Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary for the Army for acquisitions, logistics and technology. The current timeline would not have it fielded until 2021, and the Army would have to consider purchasing a “stop-gap” robot in the meantime, she said.

Chris O’Donnell, staff specialist at the joint ground robotics enterprise at the office of the secretary of defense, said $1 billion has been spent on ground robots over the past 10 years.

“Unfortunately as the war ended and the [overseas contingency operations] money started to dry up, the requirements weren’t really there to go, ‘Where is the next phase of development for ground robotics?’” he said.

Interest in the technology within the Defense Department remains high, he said. Many senior officers have grown up with ground robots, he noted.

But the services now have to go back to “programs of record” and more rigorous test-and-evaluation standards, O’Donnell said. He listed about a half dozen organizations in the department that will be involved in deciding the future of ground robots in the military, including his own. The purpose of the OSD’s joint ground robotics enterprise is to encourage the services to work together.

O’Donnell was asked in an email after the conference why the Army would take so long to field a robot that, on the surface, sounded identical to what the Navy has spent seven years developing: a standard, open architecture system where components, sensors and tools could be added as needed.  

“The Navy and Army technical folks have been working together for the last few years to refine an open architecture that they can both use for future efforts,” he replied. It is called the “unmanned ground vehicle interoperability profile.”

The long-wait periods were because of funding issues, he said. “The DoD funding cycle waits for no one, and the services have done a good job in identifying capability needs and getting those capabilities resourced in the out-year service budgets,” O’Donnell wrote.

It will be his job to ensure the Army and other services leverage the work done on the open architecture system, he added.   

Moore was joined on a panel by six other EOD technicians, many of whom had served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and had returned from the war zone within the last six months.

They had a laundry list of features that they would like to see incorporated into current or next-generation bomb disposal robots, although most were cynical that they would see them anytime soon.

Army Master Sgt. David Silva wanted better communications connectivity in his EOD robots. This was an example of something that is available today, but hasn’t found its way to the field yet — at least not for ground robots. He sometimes loses his feeds from his robots after a couple hundred meters.

Meanwhile, an infantryman serving with him hand-launches a light-weight unmanned aerial vehicle “and he’s getting a positive feed and is controlling this thing six clicks away. Clearly it’s not a weight issue. It’s a big robot, and I’m not bound by weight,” he said.

“He has a high-definition feed, and I’m saying ‘What in the world do you have that I don’t have?’”

Moore said he would like to see some basic autonomy. Why can’t operators when arriving on scene push a button and let the robot unload itself from a truck? That would let the team focus on other tasks for 15 minutes.

Cars can parallel park themselves nowadays, he noted. “I’m not exactly sure why we’re not there yet.”

Air Force Master Sgt. Gregg Wozniak would like to see a common controller allowing all the different robots to be operated from a tablet.  

Army Capt. Thomas Kirkpatrick warned that the next generation of robots may have to operate in “immature theaters.” Iraq and Afghanistan had repair depots where malfunctioning or damaged robots could be sent. That may not be the case in future conflicts where EOD technicians may be operating without a well developed logistics tail. They should have kits containing common parts that can be easily swapped out. 

Similarly, other technicians speaking at the conference asked for self-diagnostics. They would like the robot to inform them what is wrong with it so they don’t waste time swapping out parts that actually work.  

Silva said the new generation of off-the-shelf robots designed for dismounted operations in Afghanistan are not wholly satisfying. Their batteries lose their charges after one operation, for example. And a system that weighs a total of 35 pounds with controller and other accessories is still too heavy.  

“Once the battery is dead it is useless,” he said. There needs to be a way to recharge it in the field.

The light-weight robots “can’t go where we want [them] to go.” Technicians have to carry them closer to the target, which means more risk, Silva said.

The specialists are “currently compromising safety and distance because we don’t have the platforms that allow us to do what we want to do,” he added.

Moore said 35 pounds is still above the spectrum the lightweight robots should weigh.

“Pounds equal pain,” he said. “For every pound we have to put in that backpack, that is a pound of something we can’t take.”

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The EOD specialists were generally lukewarm to the idea of having a small remotely controlled drone to provide aerial reconnaissance, especially if they are only providing video feeds. Such concepts were tried in the field in Iraq but were not embraced. They did provide some security if an operator wanted to see what was over a wall. But troops currently have camera masts on their vehicles to give overhead views of bombs.

A drone with an infrared sensor, or other features that could directly help them diagnose the composition of bombs or find command wires buried in the ground, would be more useful, they said.

Other items on their wish lists were stronger arms, self-navigation and better cameras to see at night. 

Silva said the current robots aren’t designed for the tactics, techniques and procedures EOD technicians employ to disarm unexploded ordnance and IEDs.

“They don’t mirror how we would inherently approach an IED. … what we are doing is we are changing the way we handle IEDs to adapt to the equipment that is available,” he said.

Moore said: “Everything that we’re asking for costs a ton of money. And everything we’ve asked for, quite honestly, the services can’t fund today. We have dwindling dollars. … From an Air Force standpoint, it’s probably safe to say that if doesn’t revolve around an airplane, it is probably going to be pushed a little bit further back into the closet.” The same could probably be said of the Army and tanks and the Navy and ships, he added.

Other speakers echoed this frustration. Despite having a dangerous job, one that others depend upon so they can maneuver freely on the battlefield, their technology budget is miniscule compared to others.

Still, the moribund acquisition system, which cannot seem to put already mature technology into the hands of robot operators, is making matters worse, they said. Two vendors attending the conference spoke to the frustrations they had encountered.

One said there simply wasn’t any path for him to get the technology he has to offer into the technicians’ hands. He had quit attempting to win military contracts.

Another had developed an infrared sensor specifically for EOD technicians under a government contract. The Technical Support Working Group, which funds inventors and researchers to tackle tough counterterrorism problems, paid his company to design the sensor.

Noting that one of the EOD technicians said during the panel that he needed better infrared sensors, the vendor said he produced it more than three years ago, and that he could manufacture them for about $60 apiece.

“It’s ridiculous that I can’t get technology that the government paid to develop … over to you so you can use it. … It’s insane. It’s absolutely insane,” he said.

The panel moderator, Thomas Gonzalez, senior vice president of corporate development at Stratom Inc., a small business that provides EOD training and consulting services, said there was a lot of frustration among users and vendors.

“After such a long, drawn out war for them to be asking for stuff they were asking for 10 years ago, in my mind is a little bit of a tragedy,” he said.

Silva said the attitude in the military is, “Until it’s a problem, it’s not a problem.”  

With the Afghanistan war winding down, IEDs are not affecting most people’s day-to-day lives.

“It’s not a priority. We understand that. We’re going to be here [doing our job] regardless.”

Will the unmanned future be American?

droneThe unmanned community has been demoralized by the tightening of the Defense money spigot. Specifically, many are concerned that American leadership in this important field will fall behind as the Defense funding decreases. In a previous post, this blog reviewed “The Looming Robotics Gap” (Foreign policy) and found its fears of failing American unmanned superiority unwarranted.

However, it’s hard to keep a depressing idea down.  A more recent article, “Do Drones have a future?” (War on the Rocks), written by Paul Scharre, an expert with the prestigious and influential think tank Center for a New American Security, maintains the steady drumbeat of fear about American decline.

The two articles have much in common.  They both complain of the restriction of unmanned systems to niche areas (technological ghettos), and the hostility of the pilot culture to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). Both used detailed information to support their points.  Whereas the earlier Foreign Policy article focused on competition by nation states and the threats posed by widespread commercialization, the later article is mostly concerned with attitudes within each military service.   Although, I remain skeptical of the alarm raised by the Scharre’s article, I do appreciate its comprehensive overview of each service branch.  You can follow the above link to read the whole article, or read my summary and analysis below.

 

Air Force

Considering the Air Force is the epitome of pilot culture that has restricted the development of unmanned systems, Scharre is surprisingly mild in his assessment of this service branch. He is especially complimentary of the Air Force’s new Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Vector. However, he criticizes it for not being funded.

Rob Culver, AMREL’s Director of Business Development Programs (DOD), who has many years of experience in procurement, finds this criticism wanting.

“For one thing the Vector document is not meant to be funded” he explained. “It is a ‘Vision and Enabling Concepts’ document.  It is for ‘Guidance’.”

Culver also sees the debates about the role of unmanned systems as typical for new technology.

“In some ways it mirrors the advent and adoption of armor versus horse cavalry, fixed wing aircraft versus rotary wing aircraft,” he argues. For a discussion about the adoption of machine guns, he recommends Grim Reaper: Machine-Guns and Machine-Gunners in Action by Roger Ford.

Scharre disparages the Air Force for not making the top position in overseeing unmanned systems a pathway to promotion.  He also advocates deploying autonomous, multiple, low cost, “expendable” UAVs in swarms.  It is not clear from the article if the Air Force is considering this or if Scharre is mentioning it, because he thinks it’s a good idea.

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Army

Compared to the Air Force, the influence of pilot culture in the Army is minimal.  Perhaps, this is why, according to Scharre, that it is furthest along in integrating unmanned systems.  He praises (rightly, in my opinion) the development of unmanned-manned teams.

He also discusses swarms again. Specifically, he criticizes the lack of funding for autonomy research.  Culver counters that there is funding for this (at least DARPA is doing research), and wonders if Scharre’s pro-swarm agenda is the real point of this article.

 

Navy

In his discussion of the Navy, Scharre resists the urge to mention swarming.  He does criticize the specifications of Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS). He writes that they are not “relevant against more sophisticated adversaries” (the “adversaries” to which he is obliquely referring consist of a large unidentified Asian country, whose name rhymes with “Dinah”). He also voices the often-heard suspicion that the Navy deliberately downgraded the requirements, so as to not compete with next generation of manned fighters.

Both Culver and I think Scharre is jumping the gun in regards to UCLASS.  The program is a work in progress, and the Navy has a process to follow through.

Frankly, I am amazed at the amount of progress that the Navy has already made.  One of the most difficult missions in the military is using a maritime platform for the deployment of combat aircraft. The fact that the Navy has already landed a UAV on a carrier suggests that they are not dragging their feet on unmanned systems.

 

Marines

The Marines do not have a lot going on with unmanned systems. They don’t like using the assets of other services, but their amphibious boats do not have much room for additional equipment.  Perhaps, the Marines would be more enthusiastic about adopting robots if they could find one that boasts that it’s tougher than all the other unmanned systems.

 

Conclusion

Scharre concludes that we are all doomed.  Well, no, he doesn’t actually write that.  In fact, he outlines a sophisticated vision for the role of unmanned systems, and warns that the US lead is “fragile.”

Both Culver and I feel that Scharre made some interesting points, and agree with most of what he said.  We are a little dubious of some of his criticisms and feel that the adoption of unmanned systems is facing obstacles similar to ones that challenged other new technologies in the past. Despite their skeptics, machine guns, airplanes, and armored vehicles have a firm place in modern forces. So will unmanned systems.

Speaking for myself, I am glad that the unmanned community has advocates like Scharre.  However, I still feel that in spite of bureaucratic obstinacy and funding problems, the US is in an excellent position to maintain unmanned dominance for some time to come.

To learn more about DoD’s unmanned plans, contact

Rob Culver at (603) 325-3376 or robertc@amrel.com