‘Don’t Call Them Robots’ – Lockheed Preps Autonomous Vehicles
By BRADLEY PENISTON – A robot, as Morri Leland sees it, is more or less a remote-controlled vehicle with some ability to, say, avoid obstacles or even follow waypoints. But Lockheed Martin’s unmanned Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) cargo vehicle is far smarter than that, says Leland, an international business development director for the company.’
“You can tell it to go back to base, pick up its load, and come back out here when you’re ready,” Leland said after a June 14 land vehicles briefing at Eurosatory.”You can tell it to follow a route, a man, or execute an entire mission autonomously.”
An SMSS ordered to”return to base” will use its GPS and sensors to try following waypoints and known routes, and if neither of those are working out, will navigate its own path home, he said.
The six-wheeled, roughly 2.5-ton vehicle is designed to carry 1,200 pounds farther than 200 miles, a Lockheed fact sheet said.
Lockheed has been showing prototypes of the SMSS since at least 2006, but it’s now apparently ready for prime time. Leland said the SMSS has been put through its paces for both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps at a Georgia testing facility, and has been certified to operate within 10 feet of troops.
There is no government contract yet — Lockheed developed the SMSS on its own dime — but Leland is expecting one soon enough to deploy four of the unmanned cargo carriers with U.S. troops this year. He declined to specify which of the U.S. services was expected to buy the vehicles.