Xplore Technologies recently announced that Strategic Robotic Systems (SRS) selected the Xplore XSLATE D10 Rugged Tablet for the Human Machine Interface (HMI) that will control its new FUSION underwater vehicle.
The vehicle will be available to the mass market beginning in April 2017, uniquely combining an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and DIVER navigation / propulsion into one system. The integration of the ruggedised Xplore D10 Android™ tablet will provide FUSION operators with a single use interface that can be used to drive all three vehicle modes during mine countermeasure (MCM), explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) and other military inspection tasks, as well as search-and-rescue or body recovery operations. The Intel®-powered Xplore rugged tablet will also facilitate a seamless exchange of data between the FUSION vehicle’s sensors, the HMI, and servers accessible by all mission participants, whether they’re working from the field or the office.
As SRS Fusion president Jesse Rodocker explained: "The Xplore XSLATE D10 tablet PC provided SRS with the perfect integrated solution to our FUSION topside control system. Although our original plan was to repackage an off-the-shelf Android platform for our HMI, we quickly ran into a number of issues during development and testing.
"This is when I discovered the Xplore ruggedised Android tablet and realised that it answered all of our specialised requirements, including the increased reliability and intuitiveness that had led us to favour an Android versus Windows® solution at the outset. Since we’ve been able to perfect the HMI, we’ve been able to deliver much-improved and long demanded underwater technology capabilities to those responsible for critical defense and search and rescue operations."
The Android-based Xplore XSLATE D10 platform immediately gave SRS the resources to create a simple, single user interface for mission planning, execution, maintenance, and reporting tasks related to AUV, ROV, and DIVER mode operations. Plus, the tablet computer’s innate power, ruggedisation, and overall responsiveness will give even novice operators complete and steady control of the FUSION no matter how challenging the task or surrounding environment.
And though the XSLATE D10-powered HMI will most commonly be operated in a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB), FUSION operators can programme a mission from the field or an office miles away using the XSLATE D10’s detachable keyboard or simply via the sunlight readable touch screen display, which is also responsive to glove touch, and is fully functional in harsh weather conditions on land and at sea. The tablet’s built-in GPS, Intel Core®-series processor power, and fully rugged IP65 dustproof and water-resistant ratings will also make it easy for FUSION operators to navigate the underwater vessel and manage multiple mission data sets created from sensor, video and sonar sources from a single mobile computer at all times.
"Without the flexibility provided by Xplore’s XSLATE D10 Android tablet, it would have probably been challenging to execute the simplified display and intuitive add-on control capabilities of our HMI. In the past, many underwater vehicles have been very challenging to handle due to the complexities of the user interfaces, the inconsistency of the PC devices’ performance, or the sheer multitude of devices required to operate a single vehicle. That’s why our customers see the single, Android tablet-powered FUSION HMI as such a welcome approach to the improvement of operator control and interaction," Rodocker continued. "Of course, the XSLATE D10’s aesthetics are also very good and in line with the FUSION design."
The XSLATE D10 tablet’s design also enables HMI operators to quick-connect a detachable control dock equipped with the additional joysticks, thumb wheels and hotkeys required for real-time video and data interactions during ROV operations. The HMI operator can then wirelessly transmit data to and from the Wi-Fi equipped FUSION in real time to execute or analyze an AUV or DIVER mission, or via the D10’s built-in Gigabit Ethernet connection for ROV missions. As a bonus, the XSLATE D10 is the sole computer needed to also export the plans and resulting data to shared access servers in real-time so that all stakeholders are synced up on mission status from start to finish, even when physically separated.
As Mark Holleran, president and COO of Xplore, noted: "SRS’ non-traditional approach to the design of their ‘one user interface-one vehicle’ multi-mode FUSION system closely mimics Xplore’s 20 year engineering strategy. We’re mutually striving to eliminate the software development, operational, and management complexities our customers face with more traditional multi-platform solutions.
As such, we’re both committed to providing customers with a single, highly versatile platform that provides a common operating experience and sole source of information access across all missions. For example, Xplore rugged tablets are built to easily transform into a notebook, desktop, or, in this case, the sole programming and control panel for a groundbreaking underwater vehicle. This allows the single Xplore rugged tablet to serve as the primary computing platform for all workers and workflows, just as the one SRS Fusion system can transition into three different modes to support all types of underwater missions."
Not only does the XSLATE D10-powered HMI ease FUSION deployment risks for SRS customers, but it keeps their operational costs low and enables them to provision a supremely advanced technology system in a way that can be easily learned and utilised by any of their team members. SRS FUSION operators will also enjoy greater mission efficiency and capabilities due to the close collaboration that occurred between Xplore; Xplore Platinum Partner Group Mobile, and SRS during the FUSION system’s development and testing phases.
As Rodocker added: "The support we have received from Xplore’s Solutions Architects and engineers has been phenomenal. No matter how challenging our requests may seem, we’ve never heard ‘it can’t be done.’ Plus, both Xplore and Group Mobile have always been prompt in their replies and resolutions, which has been key to the successful execution of our FUSION system vision."
"Group Mobile is extremely proud to be part of this cutting-edge, revolutionary tablet solution for SRS," stated Darin White, President of Group Mobile.
"Xplore Technologies has set a standard of innovation within the Rugged PC industry and Group Mobile will continue to provide exceptional support and service to customers searching for the ideal mobile computing solution".