SSC Pacific
Multi-robot Operator Control Unit (MOCU)


MOCU was originally created in 2001 as a response to a need for the UGVx program for a small OCU capable of creating pixel-accurate routes for a small ground robot using aerial photography. This version had a moving map that used aerial photos to display the location of the vehicle as well as allow the user to define routes. The status display was limited to textual output.

In 2002, immediately after the conclusion of the UGVx program, SSC San Diego was contacted to create a similar OCU for the Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate (NVESD) Remote Robotic Reconnaissance Vehicle (R3V) project under the Night Vision Cave and Urban Assault (NVCUA) ACTD (Advanced Concept Technology OCU BackpackDemonstration). The Handheld OCUrequirements here were that the OCU had to run on an embedded processor with no moving parts (i.e., no hard disk), fit in a small backpack, and be able to simultaneously control a SSC San Diego URBOT and both an iRobot PackBot Scout and Explorer. Graphical gauges were added to improve the user interface and dependence on the presence of a mouse was removed to support increased mobility. The hardware joystick/button controllers were made so they could be swapped in or out so that the OCU hardware could be re-configured quickly to control vehicles with different capabilities (flippers, actuators, grippers, etc.). It was during this period that the first loadable modules were created: Gauges, Environmental Sensors, and Protocols. The protocol modules were significant because the URBOT uses the SMART protocol and the PackBots use a proprietary iRobot protocol. MOCU was able to control both of these vehicles simultaneously. In addition, the flexible user interface was created at this time because the PackBots and URBOT have significantly different capabilities.

The Spartan ACTD work began toward the tail end of R3V in late 2003. The goal of the Spartan program is to field an Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV). Rather than create another custom OCU the Spartan team formed a working group to evaluate currently available OCUs and choose the one that best met their needs. After evaluating several different alternatives the working group decided MOCU was the most viable candidate. For the Spartan project the primary user interface was through a Digital Nautical Chart (DNC), a product of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA, formerly known as NIMA). SSC Charleston already had an existing DNC display application known as COGENT (COmmon GEospatial Navigation Toolkit) that could be integrated into MOCU and would become the first Map module. An emerging robotics protocol standard known as JAUS (Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems) was adopted and integrated into MOCU through the JAUS protocol module. The JAUS protocol was extended to handle messages required for controlling a USV. In addition, a radar interface was added that allowed MOCU to display radar contacts as well as overlay raw radar imagery directly on the chart. Later, a Command and Control module (C2Link) was created that allowed MOCU to communicate with a higher level C2 program known as the Joint Unmanned Systems Common Control (JUSC2). The C2 link provides status of unmanned systems to higher level C2 systems as well as allowing the higher level C2 system to give instructions to the unmanned vehicles.

FIRRE UGVThe Family of Integrated Rapid Response Equipment (FIRRE) program was the next to adopt MOCU in 2005. The purpose of the FIRRE program is to integrate Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV), Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS) and Ground Surveillance Radars (GSR) into a system that provides force protection of high-value areas for forward-deployed forces. MOCU (known as JBC2BS under FIRRE) is being modified to monitor the status of ground sensors, monitor and control the GSRs and control the Tactical Amphibious Ground Support System (TAGS) vehicle.

FIRRE UGVBoth the JUSC2 and Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) programs will be using MOCU to control USVs. The LCS program is using MOCU for both the Mine Warfare (MIW) mission as well as the Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) mission.

MOCU is also being used to support a number of Joint Robotics Program (JRP) projects at SSC San Diego. These include controlling UGVs, a USV, a UAV and a UUV as well as a weapon system. In December 2005, SSC San Diego demonstrated some of MOCU’s capabilities to representatives from government and industry by showing simultaneous control of robots operating on land, sea and air. All of these assets were controlled from a single computer, running a single instance of MOCU, by a single operator.

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Updated: 11/7/2011 10:31 AM EST   Published (1.0)