PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin) Humanoid Military Robot, United States of America

PETMAN humanoid military robot

Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin (PETMAN) is a humanoid robot being developed for the US Army to test the special clothing used by soldiers for protection against chemical warfare agents. The anthropomorphic robot will have increased capabilities over the earlier mechanically-operated suit testers, which allowed only a limited number of motion movements while conducting tests.

The PETMAN was unveiled in October 2009. Footage of the robot featuring its capabilities was released in October 2011. It is anticipated to enter into the engineering and manufacturing phase in the third quarter of 2012.

PETMAN will be used to test and evaluate the next generation hazmat suits and other individual protection ensembles used by troops, in controlled environmental conditions. It could also be used by the US Air Force, Navy and the Marine Corps.

PETMAN robot development and prototype

"PETMAN will be used to test and evaluate the next generation hazmat suits and individual protection ensembles used by troops."

The US Department of Defense (DoD) joint Chemical and Biological Defense Program (CBDP) is the developer of individual protection ensemble (IPE) Mannequin System testing facilities and the PETMAN.

Contracts to develop the integrated mannequin system and testing facilities were awarded in November 2008. The detailed design took 13 years for completion.

An additional 17 months were spent to build, install and validate the functions of the first prototype.

Robotic functions, capabilities and behaviours of PETMAN are still being developed. Most of the details, however, have been kept confidential.

Contractors with a role in the CBDP

In April 2009, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded a $26.3m contract to the Midwest Research Institute (MRI) towards the development of IPE and the PETMAN.

MRI, being the lead contractor, is responsible for systems engineering, chemical expertise, programme management and the entire systems integration.

Measurement Technology Northwest was sub-contracted to develop the special mannequin physiology and thermal control systems. Containment chamber for the robot was designed by Smith Carter CUH2A.The exposure chamber (testing facility) was built and installed by HHI Corporation.

Other partners include Oak Ridge National Lab. Design and fabrication of the PETMAN has been completed by Boston Dynamics. The human simulation software, tools and systems provider had earlier developed the quadruped BigDog robot in 2005. Other products of Boston Dynamics include LittleDog, RiSE, Legged Squad Support System and Cheetah.

PETMAN humanoid robot design

The PETMAN is similar to a Hybrid III standard crash test dummy.

"The anthropomorphic robot will have increased capabilities over the earlier mechanically-operated suit testers."

The system consists of a control room, ingress / egress support, exposure chamber and an integrated IPE mannequin. The robot will test the suits in a chemically exposed chamber and control room. The exposure chamber will support the functionality of the robot through data acquisition, agent dissemination and environmental control.

The bipedal robot weighs about 80kg (180lb) and is nearly six feet tall (1.75m). PETMAN demonstrated a top walking speed of about 4.4mph (7.08km/h), making it the fastest bipedal robot in the world (Honda's Asimo robot has a top walking speed of 7km/h).

The robot uses hydraulic actuation and articulated legs with shock absorbers for operations. The unveiled prototype has an onboard computer, several sensors and other internal monitoring systems. Its functions are currently operated through controls on tether. Human actions were deployed on the robot using studies conducted on motion-capture systems.

Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin features and capabilities

The PETMAN is designed to have human-like capabilities. It is based on the similar mechanical design and walking algorithm used for the four-legged robot, BigDog, which can carry heavy payloads in rough terrains.

The PETMAN can self balance on its two feet and move freely, walk, crawl and perform suit-stressing calisthenics as well as squat thrusts to test chemical exposure. It can also balance when shoved.

The robot provides realistic test conditions by exhibiting human physiological characteristics during physical exertion such as temperature control, sweating and humidity, inside the protective clothing.

The PETMAN can be used to perform various other tasks dynamically in emergency situations, such as search and rescue operations in fire, nuclear and other hazardous conditions, without human exposure.