US Army to Trial Hands-Free Robotic Controls for Unmanned Vehicles

Published: 22 Jan 2018 | Author: Mike Rees

US Army unmanned vehicle hands free controls

Charles River Analytics, a developer of intelligent systems solutions, has announced that it has been awarded a follow-on contract to build a hands-free human-machine interface (HMI) for the US Army. The Supervisory HMI Enabling Practical Autonomous Robot Direction (SHEPARD) effort fuses multiple proven robot control technologies to provide a natural and reliable hands-free HMI for Soldiers operating in diverse environments. The two-year contract is valued at $1 million.

Unmanned vehicles (UxVs) are vital to military operations, although their widespread integration faces significant barriers. Most current UxV systems require active remote control or teleoperation, where a Commander orders a trained human operator to control the robot to carry out a task.

“Our approach to managing UxVs is in stark contrast with how robot operators currently direct platforms — they use cumbersome, hands-on, head-down controllers. Our goal is to develop controls that let robots seamlessly integrate into human teams,” said Stan German, Senior Scientist at Charles River Analytics.

SHEPARD offers more natural and reliable communication so Commanders can issue instructions directly to UxVs. The hands-free HMI will combine speech and gestures to enable reliable command and control of multiple unmanned vehicles. SHEPARD will use smart devices such as a watch for easy communication with military robots.

SHEPARD will reduce the cognitive burden on Warfighters and their Commanders, increase trust within human-robot teams, and accelerate the adoption of UxVs, helping to remove Warfighters from harm’s way.