Later this month, Carnegie Mellon University and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will unveil the successor of the Spinner, a 7-ton unmanned robotic vehicle. Dubbed Crusher, this new 6.5-ton robot will be able to carry payloads of up to 2 tons on very complex terrains. Crusher will rely on surrounding sensors to keep its balance and learn about its environment. After intensive testings, it should start to perform its duties in 2008.
Before looking at Crusher, let's go back to Spinner, which also was developed at the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) at Carnegie Mellon.
Spinner, which was built by Carnegie Mellon researchers and funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is a high-speed combat vehicle (UGCV) capable of carrying payloads up to 4, 500 lbs. It can roll over virtually any obstacle and even continue traveling if it's flipped over on its back. Its successor, Crusher, will weigh a half a ton less, feature a stronger hull and combines Spinner's speed and flexibility with enhanced autonomy capabilities.
Below is a composite picture showing Crusher under tests (Credit: NREC). This image was extracted from this short video.
So what new technologies were deployed for Crusher?
Known as UPI (UGVC PreceptOR Integrated) or UPI, this technology spreads sensing abilities across the entire vehicle to help balance its perception and also support vehicle areas that may be less adept at sensing the environment. The software will also let Crusher "learn" and apply previously gathered information to new obstacles. This should make the Crusher faster than Spinner and better equipped for handling more complex terrain situations.
Crusher, or Spinner version 2.0, features a new highly durable hull, increased travel suspensions and is powered "by six specially developed high torque wheel mounted motors that operate utilizing energy produced by a UQM generator driven by a small diesel engine" (Source: UQM Technologies, Inc. press release).
Still Spinner could handle complex situations as you can see on the image below, which was extracted from this movie (Credit: NREC).
Crusher will be officially shown by NREC on April 28, 2006 and should become available to the military in 2008.
For more information about these robotic vehicles, please check these NREC pages about Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle (UGCV) and UGCV PerceptOR Integrated (UPI).
Sources: Lance Ulanoff, PC Magazine, April 14, 2006; and various web sites
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