SITIS Archives - Topic Details
Program:  SBIR
Topic Num:  A10-052 (Army)
Title:  Innovative Heavy-lifting Manipulators for EOD Robots
Research & Technical Areas:  Ground/Sea Vehicles, Weapons

Acquisition Program:  
  Objective:  Develop innovative lifting robotic manipulators for current Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) operations.
  Description:  An EOD requirement exists to increase the lifting capacity of robotic manipulators to remove heavy projectiles and their resistance to the recoil forces generated by the firing of EOD disrupters. The current manipulators are powered by electric motors which do not provide sufficient lifting capacity and grip strength and are irreparably damaged by the firing of EOD disruptor tools. EOD units supporting the Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Afghanistan need a robotic vehicle with a heavy-lifting and recoil-force resistant manipulator system to support asymmetric battlefield missions that require operators to dispose of or render safe IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), VBIEDs (Vehicle borne Improvised Explosive Devices) or UXOs (Unexploded Ordnances). Many explosive devices built with 155mm artillery shells or other heavy components using electro-mechanical manipulator systems are not capable of lifting projectile weights over 110 lbs. If the EOD operator can use the robot to lift the IED components, they can be removed to a safe zone where they can be disposed of. This would minimize risk to friendly forces and mitigate collateral damage while reducing risk to the operators and increasing their capabilities and efficiency. Also, existing manipulator systems are not strong enough to breach doors or open trunks of suspicious vehicles. Currently, EOD operators use explosives to force open vehicle trunks and doors. Having a manipulator system open the trunk or door of a suspicious vehicle would be much safer. Additionally, EOD operators wish to mount disrupters on robotic manipulators that fire various heavy-recoil slugs designed to render-safe or dispose of explosive devices. However, recent testing has demonstrated that the heavy recoil forces generated by the firing of disrupters, even with recoil mitigation devices installed, strip the electric motors of the manipulator causing irreparable damage. This effort solicits innovative solutions to the problem including 1) an innovative manipulator system which can be installed on the payload of a small EOD moving platforms such as the Talon Robot (see Reference #6), or Packbot (see reference #7) with the manipulator system weight between 20 and 27 lbs); 2) a lifting capacity of no less than 110 lbs, 44 lbs at full extension, and the manipulator horizontal/vertical reach range shall be a minimum length of a robot platform and twice the length of a robot body as the maximum; 3) the manipulator gripper and the entire arm assembly must be strong enough to force open a vehicle door or trunk ; 4) the ability to withstand repeated firing of .50 Cal Dearmer slugs (fired at explosive devices to disrupt the firing mechanism or circuit which has an energy of approximately 560 ft-lbs ) without performance degradation or damage to the manipulator; 5) the manipulator system shall have the following actuated degrees of freedom (degrees of motion): shoulder pitch, shoulder roll, shoulder yaw, elbow pitch, wrist pitch, wrist roll, wrist yaw, torso yaw, etc; 6) each actuated degree of freedom shall be compatible with a source bus voltage of 24V DC and include sensing for joint position (and derivative speed) and joint torque; 7) the system shall be capable of receiving and processing serial commands (e.g. RS-232, USB, etc.) for individual joint motion. Position, speed, and torque loops shall be closed locally by the motor controller.

  PHASE I: Design an innovative heavy-lifting robotic manipulator system that achieves the 1-7 aforementioned requirements.
  PHASE II: Build a robotic manipulator prototype system and perform preliminary field tests to quantify performance.

  PHASE III: This generic heavy-lifting manipulator can be used in a variety of military remote control applications including the upcoming Advanced EOD Robotic System (AEODRS), the Man Transportable Robotic System (MTRS), etc. Commercial applications could include homeland security applications such as opening doors for law enforcement personnel under dangerous conditions, removing suspicious objects for bomb squads, or handling hazardous materials in a stressful environment.

  References:  ) The Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) website: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/ 2) Optimal, Model-Based Design of Soft Robotic Manipulators J. Mech. Des. -- September 2008 -- Volume 130, Issue 9, 091402 3) Hydraulic Robot Manipulator Shoulder http://www.cim.mcgill.ca/~haptic/pictures/Shoulder.html 4) Force Feedback Manipulator http://www.ameasol.com/grips.pdf 5) Hydraulic end effector http://www.vecnarobotics.com/multimedia/downloads/end_effector.pdf 6) http://www.foster-miller.com/lemming.htm 7) http://www.irobot.com/sp.cfm?pageid=109 8) MIL-STD-1472F, Human Engineering and DOD-HDBK-743A, Anthropometry of U.S. Military Personnel

Keywords:  IED defeat, VBIED detection, hydraulics, robot manipulators

Questions and Answers:
Q: Can you be more specific about the desired degrees of freedom for the entire system, particularly your breakdown for the torso, arm, and end-effector(s)?
A: This topic revealed that one of the manipulator(s) skeletal structures is adapting the approach of a 3-DOF (yaw, roll, and pitch motions) for the torso and a variety of end effectors (desired to have 8-DOF which is human-arm-like [7-DOF + wrist extension] but not required). However, all potential proposers are encouraged to submit any innovative heavy-lifting manipulator(s) concepts for EOD robots.
Q: We are curious about the size of the desired work-space of the arm system. Most UGV arms appear to have about 1-meter of usable reach, is this more or less acceptable for this system?
A: The usable arm reach is one of the criteria among other specifications (Ex. Horizontal and vertical reach, power-to-weight ratio, minimum and maximum range of motion (shoulder, elbow, wrist, jaw, and others).
However, at this time this topic does not have a list of specifications.
Q: 1. Are there cameras on the robot for situational awareness or should they be included in the arm design?
2. Is there interest in unique user interfaces or only in unique control strategies that operate within existing user interfaces?
3. In terms of sensors (cameras, etc) and control strategies, are there any guidelines on available bandwidths and latencies between the robot and operator?
A: 1. Are there cameras on the robot for situational awareness or should they be included in the arm design?
Ans: Yes, cameras should be included in the arm design.

2. Is there interest in unique user interfaces or only in unique control strategies that operate within existing user interfaces?
Ans: It is encouraged to come up with any message interface between the robot and operator.

3. In terms of sensors (cameras, etc) and control strategies, are there any guidelines on available bandwidths and latencies between the robot and operator?
Ans: The commercially available wireless local area networks, such as using the standard 802.11b, are appropriate for this application. If there are no perceptive latencies between the robot and operator then it is sufficient for this topic.

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