The U.S. Navy seeks to commercialize and further develop technologies related to communication relays, mesh networks, and UGV payloads.
In military and commercial applications, mobile robots often require a robust, long range, and non-line-of-sight (NLOS) communications link to the operator. High frequency digital radio communications, currently the preferred technology, are subject to line-of-sight limitations and are often impossible to maintain in urban environments. To address this problem, SSC Pacific developed the Automatically Deployed Communication Relays (ADCR) system. ADCR allows a mobile robot to carry relay radios that are automatically deployed when and where needed in order to maintain robust, long-range, and NLOS communications between the robot and operator. Two recent SSC Pacific follow-on projects to ADCR add new capabilities and features for the control and use of mobile robots:
1. Automatic Payload Deployment System (APDS)
APDS adds to ADCR the ability to deploy payloads automatically or on remote command. Prototyped payloads include an Infrared (IR) illuminator that can be remotely activated; a stand-alone video/vibration sensor node that streams video over the relayed communication network; and an empty node that can carry food, medical supplies, etc. The system is modular, allowing third-parties to easily develop payloads, and enabling compatibility with a larger number of robots. The APDS deployer and relay radios are slimmer than the ADCR system and use infrared communications while in stowed mode.
2. Manually Deployed Communication Relays (MDCR)
MDCR takes a simpler, more rapidly fieldable design approach than ADCR and APDS. MDCR allows a user to manually deploy and retrieve relay radios using forklifts mounted to a mobile robot’s flippers. For robots without flippers, a motorized forklift system has been developed. The relays and network developed for MDCR improve significantly upon the technology used in ADCR and APDS. MDCR can carry payloads, but unlike ADPS, does not use infrared communications between the relay and forklift while in stowed mode.
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- SD 1153, June 2013. SSC Pacific, San Diego, CA 92152–5001. Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.