SSC Pacific
TeleOperated Vehicle (TOV)

The TeleOperated Vehicle (TOV) was developed for the US Marine Corps by SSC San Diego as part of the Ground Air TeleRobotic Systems (GATERS) program (together with the AROD aerial vehicle), and continued under the Unmanned Ground Vehicle Joint Program Office (UGV/JPO) Ground-Launched Hellfire program (Metz, et al., 1992), during which time a hardened second-generation version of the TeleOperated Vehiclevehicle was designed and built to support a major milestone demonstration in September 1989. For this series of live-fire exercises at Camp Pendleton, CA, the TOV system achieved a perfect record of eight direct hits with Hellfire missiles and four direct hits with laser-guided Copperhead projectiles.

Three distinct modules for mobility, surveillance, and weapons firing allow the remote TOV platforms to be configured for various tactical missions (Aviles, et al., 1990; Metz, et al., 1992). The first, the Mobility Module, encompasses the necessary video cameras and actuation hardware to enable remote driving of the HMMWV from several kilometers away. A robot in the driver's seat of the HMMWV was slaved to the operator's helmet back in the control van so as to mimic his head movements (Martin & Hutchinson, 1989). If the helmet turned to the left and down, so did the slave robot in the remote vehicle. The two cameras on the robot that look like eyes feed two TeleOperated Vehicleminiature video monitors on the operator's helmet, so that the operator would see in the van whatever the robot was viewing out in the field.

Two microphones on either side of the head served as the robot's ears, providing the operator with stereo hearing to heighten the remote-telepresence effect. Electric and hydraulic actuators for the accelerator, brakes, steering, and gearshift were all coupled via a fiber-optic telemetry link to identical components at the driver's station inside the control van. A low-tension 30-kilometer cable payout system dispensed the fiber-optic tether onto the ground as the vehicle moved, avoiding the damage and hampered mobility that would otherwise arise from dragging the cable (Aviles, et al., 1990).

Actual HMMWV controls were replicated in form, function, and relative position to minimize required operator training (Metz, et al., 1992). After a few minutes of remote driving, one would actually begin to feel like one was sitting in the vehicle itself. Probably the most bizarre feeling one would have driving the TOV remotely was operating the gearshift. You naturally want to look down at the shift lever when you grab it, which of course causes the slave robot at the other end to look down also. Your eyes see the shift lever on the remote vehicle, while your hand feels the shift knob in the control van. The problem is your hand doesn’t appear in the video that your eyes see. When you move the lever, you feel it move and see it move in the video, but there’s no hand there doing the moving. The human brain automatically fuses sensory inputs from two different sources, several kilometers apart, back into one composite image.

The Surveillance Module was basically a glorified pan-and-tilt unit transporting a high-resolution sensor package, all mounted on a scissors-lift mechanism that could raise it 12 feet into the air. The sensor suite weighed approximately 300 pounds and consisted of a low-light-level zoom camera, an AN/TAS-4A infrared imager (FLIR), and an AN/PAQ-3 MULE laser designator. The remote operator would look for a tank or some other target with the camera or the FLIR, then switch over to the designator to light it up for a laser-guided Hellfire missile or Copperhead artillery round.

One Of Three TOVs
One of three remotely driven reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) vehicles developed by SSC Pacific for the USMC TeleOperated Vehicle (TOV) program.


TOV Fires Hellfire Missle
A Rockwell Hellfire missile comes off the rail in response to a remote command from the TOV operator located in the Control Van several kilometers away during demonstrations for a high-level Department of Defense audience at Camp Pendleton, CA, in September 1989.

TheWeapons Module provided each of the designating vehicles with a remotely-actuated .50-caliber machine gun for self defense. In addition to pan-and-tilt motion, electric actuators were provided to charge the weapon, release the safety, and depress the trigger. A fixed-focus CCD camera was mounted just above the gun barrel for safety purposes. The weapon could be manually controlled with the joystick in response to video from this camera, or slaved to the more sophisticated electro-optical sensors of the Surveillance Module. One of the remote HMMWVs had a Hellfire missile launcher instead of a Surveillance Module, the idea being that one platform looked and designated while the other did the shooting. Meanwhile, all the humans could be up to 15 kilometers away, which is important in chemical or biological warfare scenarios.

The TOV Control Van consists of a HMMWV-mounted environmental shelter containing three operator control stations and a fourth supervisor station.

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Updated: 10/19/2011 5:32 PM EST   Published (1.0)