Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) in the School of Computer Science's Robotics Institute is unveiling a unique unmanned ground vehicle that offers new strength, mobility and autonomy features for the Army's effort to keep its troops out of harm's way.
The 6.5-ton "Crusher" combines the strength and mobility of a predecessor known as Spinner with NREC-developed autonomy capabilities to create an extremely robust, unmanned vehicle that can function on its own in challenging off-road terrain. The project is known by the acronym UPI, which stands for Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle (UGCV) PerceptOR Integration.
The UPI project, which includes extensive autonomy development, payload integration and field-testing, is funded by the U.S. Army and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at an expenditure of $35 million to date. Experts say UPI incorporates technologies six to 10 years ahead of its time and provides an unprecedented glimpse into the future capabilities of unmanned military vehicles. The technologies developed for Crusher also have potential for commercial use in areas like construction, farming and mining.
Crusher does not carry human crews, therefore its design offers unequaled ruggedness, mobility and payload-carrying capacity.
Since Crusher and its predecessor do not have to accommodate human crews, their novel designs offer unequaled ruggedness, mobility and payload-carrying capacity compared to manned vehicles in their weight class. Crusher's hull is made from high-strength aluminum tubes and titanium nodes protected by a steel skid plate that can absorb shocks from impacts with rocks or tree stumps. Its unique suspension enables it to move smoothly over extremely rough terrain and overcome obstacles like large ditches, man-made barriers or piles of boulders. It can carry more than 8,000 lbs. of payload and armor. Electric motors embedded in each of the vehicle's six wheels are powered with a hybrid system that uses a turbo diesel generator to recharge its batteries. Its top speed is currently 26 miles per hour.