Carnegie Mellon University

UAV helicopter transports a UGV vehicle at the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC).

January 22, 2016

Carnegie Mellon, Sikorsky Aircraft use collaborating autonomous systems to demonstrate new technological capabilities for keeping warfighters safe

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Sikorsky Aircraft, using a UH-60MU BLACK HAWK helicopter enabled with Sikorsky’s MATRIX™ Technology and CMU’s Land Tamer® autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV), recently participated in a joint autonomy demonstration that proved the capability of new, ground-air cooperative missions. Such missions could prevent warfighters’ exposure to hazardous conditions, such as chemical or radiological contaminated areas. In the demonstration, the BLACK HAWK helicopter was operated in coordination with a UGV developed by Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC). The UGV Land Tamer all-terrain vehicle combined key elements of several NREC world-class autonomous systems to support missions in difficult environments. 

During the demonstration mission, the unmanned BLACK HAWK helicopter picked up the UGV, flew a 12-mile route, delivered it to a ground location and released it. The drop-zone collaboration between the two autonomous systems demonstrated a uniquely differentiating capability. Over the course of more than six miles, the UGV autonomously navigated the environment, while using its onboard chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) sensors to detect simulated chemical, biological, and radiological hazards and delivered this information back to a remote ground station. The UGV was optionally teleoperated to explore hazard sites in greater detail, when necessary. 

The exercise, at Sikorsky’s Development Flight Center, West Palm Beach, Fla., was the culmination of a 19-month project between Sikorsky and CMU’s NREC to demonstrate for the Army autonomous delivery of an UGV by an Optionally Piloted or Unmanned BLACK HAWK helicopter, followed by a long-range autonomous ground mission to collect vital, on- the-ground intelligence. The collaboration between the UAV and the UGV demonstrated the effectiveness of unmanned systems in addressing logistics needs in unknown or dangerous environments. The Oct. 27 demonstration was for TARDEC, through the Robotics Technology Consortium, which sponsored the Extending the Reach of the Warfighter through Robotics (ERWR) project. 

“The teaming of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles like what was demonstrated here has enormous potential to bring the future ground commander an adaptable, modular, responsive and smart capability that can evolve as quickly as needed to meet a constantly changing threat,” said Dr. Paul Rogers, director, U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. “The cooperative effort between the Army labs, academia and industry to bring solutions to the warfighter is exciting to see.”