Battlebots: Air Force Research Lab gives new meaning to term
An unidentified man walks toward a security forces vehicle. A loud, firm voice warns the man to “halt and be identified.” The man doesn’t comply and continues to advance. The vehicle backs up cautiously flashing its red and blue lights to make sure the man knows he’s dealing with security forces.


By 1st Lt. Darrick Lee, 90th Space Wing Public Affairs
Posted Wednesday, June 8, 2005

  
Battlebots: Air Force Research Lab gives new meaning to term
F.E. WARREN AFB, Wyo. – A robotic scout sprays simulated pepper spray at an aggressor demonstrating how remotely manned vehicles can conduct security forces missions here May 21. The Remote, Detection, Challenge and Response System is an Air Force Research Laboratory initiative. (Photos by 1st Lt. Darrick Lee)


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F.E. WARREN AFB, Wyo. – An unidentified man walks toward a security forces vehicle. A loud, firm voice warns the man to “halt and be identified.” The man doesn’t comply and continues to advance. The vehicle backs up cautiously flashing its red and blue lights to make sure the man knows he’s dealing with security forces.
He continues his aggressive movement toward the patrol.

Suddenly, a blast of pepper spray hits the man. He falls to the ground, and security forces move closer keeping the suspect under observation … until humans come to apprehend him.

This was the scenario here, when the Air Force Research Laboratory unveiled the Remote, Detection, Challenge and Response System May 21. (The pepper spray was simulated.) AFRL, headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, visited the base to demonstrate how unmanned systems might conduct security forces missions. Several of Wyoming’s senior military and political leaders attended, including Wyoming Sen. Craig Thomas.

The REDCAR experiment was the first to integrate robotics into the day-to-day security forces mission on any Air Force installation, according to Kevin Hodges, Robotics Program manager for AFRL. The demo signaled the end of an experiment that began May 9.

Two unmanned vehicles were displayed. One appears to be a turbo-charged all-terrain vehicle; the other resembles a miniature tank. They are loaded with cameras and sensors, as well as robotic equipment needed make them function without a human nearby. Both are designed to save lives by confronting adversaries and conducting surveillance, according to the AFRL.

Humans, like Airman 1st Class Tristan White, control the robots from remote locations. AFRL trained the 90th Security Forces Squadron Airman to use the robots for gathering accurate mission data.

A robotic security forces vehicle waits patiently as Airman 1st Class Tristan White explains the finer points of its operation via remote control to Wyoming Senator Craig Thomas.

“These systems are not intended to replace human interaction,” Mr. Hodges said. “They remain under human control at all times, and are designed to help our Airmen by keeping them out of harm’s way. Our focus is saving lives.”

AFRL envisions these types of robots providing perimeter defense for Air Force bases and forward deployed units. Data gathered from the experiment here may be used to make that vision a reality.

Mr. Hodges stresses the robots provide an advantage for security forces by providing safe surveillance and forward presence without risking injury or loss of life.

The mission of the AFRL is to lead the discovery, development and integration of affordable war-fighting technologies for air and space forces, according to their Web site.


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