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Latest Robotics News


In November 2019 a White House summit on Partnerships in Science and Technology announced near-term goals that include a partnership between NOAA and Ocean Infinity to conduct deepwater ocean mapping of the U.S. shoreline and U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. “This is an exciting step for Ocean Infinity as we combine our leading deepwater exploration technology with NOAA’s prominent authority in ocean science,” Sean Fowler, director of business development for Ocean Infinity, said in a prepared statement. Only 43% of the 3.4 million square nautical miles of coastal and deepwater U.S. territory is currently mapped to modern standards.

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The NAVY wants future robotic warships, or unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) to not only abide by the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS), but also to have the capability to communicate their status in standard English. COLREGS lay down the rules for how 2 ships should navigate when drawing near each other, and computer software onboard USVs is said to currently manage this, but when 3 or more USVs converge, things get more complicated. When 3 or more manned ships converge, bridge crews typically sort out navigation verbally via VHF radio, so the question is how will USVs overcome the current “bottleneck” when one encounters a 3-ship interaction but with no ability to converse?

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AUVSI Miami News reported January 9, 2020 in an update from Finance.yahoo[dot]com, that Asia-based QYSEA exhibited new upgrades to its FIFISH maritime submersible robot at CES 2020 in Las Vegas. Both FIFISH V6+ and FIFISH W6 models were shown. This remarkable omni-directional underwater drone is equipped with 4K UHD video recording and imaging sonar capability. With its 6 thrusters, it has both “active distance lock” to remain a fixed distance from an object it is observing, and can maneuver in 3 dimensions using head tracking control. FIFISH can also freeze its motion in a maneuver called “posture hold”.

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The DOD is, by all accounts, moving quickly in the unmanned ground combat systems arena. According to DefenseNews[dot]com, the U.S. Army has picked QinetiQ North America to build 4 “light” robot combat vehicle (RCV) prototypes, and Textron to build 4 “medium” scale RCV prototypes, pending completion of contract negotiations. DefenseNews[dot]com further announced that “Through a rapid contracting mechanism, the National Advanced Mobility Consortium is coordinating the Army’s awards to industry, and the service expects to be officially under contract with both companies by mid-February, according to the statement.”

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In the rapidly advancing era of automated cars, it’s no surprise that there has been a worldwide explosion in semi-autonomous and autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs). These “robot mules” span military, commercial and research markets. Notably, in late 2019, the U.S. Army selected General Dynamics to produce UGVs under its Small Multipurpose Equipment Transports (SMET) program. Defense Blog reported that an Army contract worth $162.4 million “for up to 624 robotic mules was awarded in October to GDLS, a business unit of General Dynamics. Delivery to Soldiers begins in the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2021.” See SMET details, below, and a photo gallery of a representative sample of commercial, research and military UGVs illustrating the latest generation of robotic mules. This update starts with the pioneering German UGVs of WW2, and the circa-2006 CMU Crusher.

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