Lockheed Martin has successfully conducted a fully autonomous resupply, reconnaissance, surveillance and target-acquisition demonstration at Fort Benning in Georgia, US.

Undertaken in collaboration with the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Centre (TARDEC), the demonstration used the company’s squad mission support system (SMSS) unmanned ground vehicle, K-MAX unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and Gyrocam optical sensor.

During the ‘extending the reach of the warfighter through robotics’ capability assessment, the K-MAX delivered SMSS by sling load to conduct an autonomous resupply mission scenario in support of soldiers defending a village.

After delivery, the SMSS proceeded to an observation point and raised its 9in, mid-wave surveillance Gyrocam sensor to scan the area for threats and provide geo-location coordinates of hostile personnel for indirect-fire missions.

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Ground Vehicles vice-president Scott Greene said: "Fully autonomous capabilities as we’ve just demonstrated will allow service members to focus on important missions and remain out of harm’s way.

"This successful demonstration with both unmanned air and ground vehicles shows us that these missions are not only possible, but can be available much sooner than you would expect."

"This demonstration signifies another use for robots."

TARDEC director Dr Paul Rogers said: "The synergistic use of unmanned air and ground vehicles will give warfighters a larger operational reach, and allow execution of missions that are currently performed at great risk to the warfighter."

Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training Business Aviation and Unmanned Systems vice-president Dan Spoor said: "This demonstration signifies another use for robots and this brings us closer to the pinnacle of how we use unmanned systems.

"There is significant potential for these types of systems for humanitarian aid, the civilian oil and gas industry, firefighting and for other military applications."

Both SMSS and K-MAX were equipped with mobile satellite communications (SATCOM) and local line-of-sight communications systems during the demonstration, while a SATCOM-equipped remote operations centre controlled and monitored the vehicles’ activities.

Image: A K-MAX unmanned helicopter delivers an SMSS unmanned ground vehicle during a fully autonomous mission demonstration at Fort Benning, US. Photo: © 2014 Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Defence Technology