2018 AUSA Global Force Symposium & Exposition (Day 1 26 March)
Endeavor Robotics (booth #1001) is the largest robot supplier to the US Defense Department, providing more than 3 million hours of robot operation. Tom Frost, Endeavor Robotics’ President, pointed out: “We have shipped over 6,000 robot systems to 40+ countries around the world for international defence forces, law enforcement, and energy and industrial markets.”
The Chelmsford, Massachusetts (USA)-based industry executive was asked to comment on the evolving requirements Endeavor is receiving from its military customers for unmanned ground vehicles and how it is responding. “During military operations, every second counts. In the unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) robotics industry, the easier it is to operate a robot the more effective the mission it will be. The end-user will be up-to-speed faster and the robot will perform more quickly. Endeavor Robotics created a touch screen controller technology, called UPOINT, which is incredibly intuitive.”
Physically speaking, UPOINT looks like a standard touchscreen tablet. But the technology under the screen extends well beyond tapping and dragging, with features including; virtual drive lines, observer mode, object/person detection plug-ins and semi-autonomous pose commands. Mr. Frost continued: “UPOINT is designed to control Endeavor’s whole family of robots. It serves as a single controller that operates robots from small to large, at the same time, over a radio network that meshes and reforms ‘on the fly’. Additionally, UPOINT has an open framework architecture that allows the user interface to be extended to control non-Endeavor robots. This interchangeability and flexibility opens possibilities not only for new Endeavor products, but also for upgrades to other robots and robotic technologies. With a smart, intuitive interface like UPOINT, UGV operators are freed to focus on the mission at hand and less on the technical details of how to control their robot.”
The community expert then described internal technology thrusts in progress at Endeavor. At the top of the list – the company is constantly working to make its robots smarter. “We are developing greater degrees of autonomy that allow our robots to perform more of the mission on their own rather than being tele-operated by the operator. We have developed capability that allows our robots to autonomously explore a building or cave, and then create a map for a squad that may be looking to enter,” Mr. Frost emphasised. “This map is rich with information that is critical to know when entering – about where doors, hallways and stairs are located. And our robots can even mark areas on the map where they encountered hazardous materials/gases, weapons or people.”
One major, current contract of interest, is this past October’s award by the US DoD to Endeavor Robotics to provide the US Army’s next generation UGV called the MTRS Inc. II (Man Transportable Robotic System Increment II). This system is built up from battlefield-proven designs and embedded with next generation technology that will allow the robot to perform bomb disposal, reconnaissance, and hazardous materiel missions.