UGV cost & why they should have leather seats

Biggest problems facing robot developers

Recently, I interviewed Rob Culver, Director of AMREL’s Business Development and Sales of Unmanned/Manned Vehicle Systems.  Rob has done stints as a procurement officer, and in Special Projects Management Office at USASOC. After serving 23 years in the Army, Rob joined iRobot in 2005.  He traces his lifelong interest in robotics to reading Robert A. Heinlein’s “Starship Trooper” and Douglas Adams “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.”UGV with leather seats

My sense is that unmanned systems, especially ground vehicles, are at some kind of crossroads.  The technology is advancing rapidly, but the land wars are winding down.  The domestic market hasn’t increased to the point to make up for the slacking demand by the Department of Defense (DOD). What do you see as the biggest challenge to the industry?

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Think Outside the Bot: Simple Solutions Through Innovation

robot dogA familiar cliché in autonomy research is that we want unmanned systems to be like a dog, i.e. independently capable of some tasks, but fundamentally subject to the control of a human operator.  Researchers at Auburn University evidently felt “like a dog” wasn’t adequate and went for the real thing.

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New Android Interoperability Capability [FREE DOWNLOAD]

rightside_menu_5You may not have had a chance to see AMREL’s new interoperability capability at AUVSI, but you can read about it on your free download.  Just as our Flexpedient® technology revolutionized OCUs for UGVs, we think interoperable Small Lightweight Expansion Devices (SLED) will become standard for handheld applications.   Click here.

AMREL demonstrates interoperability for Android device at AUVSI

AMREL will demonstrate a pioneering interoperability capability for an Android/ARM device at AUVSI 2013 this August in Washington, D.C. 

“This is really unique,” said Ron McMahan, AMREL’s Vice-President of Engineering Solutions. “No other company produces handheld or control devices that have the ability to switch applications in the field as efficiently and easily.  One platform, multiple applications; that’s the story.”

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What you don’t know about handheld controllers can hurt you

handheld controllerOriginally, only the IT guy was supposed to attend the trade show.  He had a tech background and frequently doubled as a purchasing agent. However, the police sergeant had performed Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) missions in the military. The chief thought the experienced, older man could bring insight to the department’s process for acquiring an Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV)…

Read the rest of the article about handheld controllers here.


Wired has a video featuring MESA’s amazing ACER UGV as well as its autonomy programming, which was created by the folks at 5D.  At the 5 minute, 20 second mark of the video, you can see the AMREL laptop that’s serves as ACER’s Operator Control Unit.  Check out Exclusive Video: Robot Mini-Tank Battles Homemade Bombs

The Incredibly Shrinking UGV

In the early days of the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars, US forces had no effective countermeasures against Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), the single biggest cause of combat deaths. To fight the IED threat, our armed forces turned to Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV).

It’s hard to remember now, but UGVs barely existed 10 years ago. The Defense community abandoned the traditionally leisurely pace of decades-long weapons development and quickly flooded combat theaters with thousands of UGVs. In 2011, the world’s governments are projected to spend $702 million a year on UGVs.  Below is a chart comparing a few UGVs. Read more

Will Future Battlefield Computers be Futuristic?

futureRecently, some clients asked AMREL to build an Operator Control Unit (OCU) for their Unmanned Ground Vehicle.  No surprise there; we dominate that particular application.  What was noteworthy was the specific form factor that they requested.  They wanted it to be a wearable computer, worn on the wrist.

We ran a simple experiment with the clients.  We strapped a small computer to their wrist and had them run some typical UGV commands.  Soon, they discovered that their arms grew tired supporting the computer.  The clients agreed to have their OCU installed in the traditional, if less exotic, form factor of a handheld.

Notice that the wrist-mounted form factor wasn’t discarded for technological reasons. AMREL has become quite adept at developing small, powerful, ATOM-based computer platforms, which would be perfect for wearable solutions. Rather, this innovative approach was discarded, because the wrist form factor proved impractical for this particular use. Read more

AMREL Ubiquitous at AUVSI 2011


The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International recently held its annual North America show, and AMREL was
Robotics System Joint Project Office (RSJPO)  there!  In addition to our booth showing off AMREL’s new interoperable payload controller, AMREL’s OCU solutions were displayed by a multitude of vendors, including: Read more

AMREL in Popular Science Magazine

Popular Science has an article about applications developed for military robots that may find use in the civilian world. One of the spotlighted applications utilizes an AMREL computing platform. Created for iRobot’s PackBot, it allows command and control of unmanned systems, even when there is interference by urban buildings. This customized solution is one of many that leverages the flexibility of AMREL’s computers. Check out “7 Military Robots, Now Modified for Your Living Room.”

For more information about how AMREL computers are used for the PackBot, visit the “Deployed Solutions” section in our Robotics website.