Lockheed Martin's latest robotic vehicle has demonstrated its ability to navigate steps and gaps without human assistance.
The Multifunction Utility / Logistics and Equipment (MULE) robotic vehicle's Engineering Evaluation Unit (EEU) autonomously climbed a 30 inch step and bridged a 70in gap by using parametric descriptions of the obstacles.
Lockheed says this capability 'far exceeds' the performance of other high-mobility vehicles such as the Humvee.
It is envisaged the vehicle will use technology to perform a number of dull, dirty and dangerous jobs currently done by soldiers, freeing troops to focus more effectively on the success of their mission.
The vehicle has a unique 6x6 independent articulated suspension, coupled with in-hub motors powering each wheel, which provides extreme mobility in difficult terrain.
Lockheed Martin Missles and Fire Control programme manager for FCS MULE Joe Zineker says the MULE has demonstrated better mobility than any other small combat vehicle.
"The MULE can keep up with dismounted soldiers, and will not be restricted to roads or trails like most other vehicles," he says.
Zineker says it is hoped the vehicle will be in use by 2013.
Reported by Elizabeth Clifford-Marsh