Harris has delivered four of its T7 UGVs to the UK Ministry of Defence for qualification under the Project Starter requirement and has begun demonstrating the platform widely including to Australia, New Zealand and the US Army.
The latter was part of the Harris bid the Common Robotic System – Heavy (CRS-H) requirement for which it is competing against two other companies.
Under the MoD contract, Harris will deliver 56 robots with the haptic controller and when full production is launched, which is expected before the end of 2018, the company will deliver five units a month with an official stating it would be possible to double that number on the back of further orders.
Field testing with realistic operations has occurred in extreme weather conditions of -20°C with 15 weapon firings and 60°C as well at 47°C with solar loading. The company is planning for trials in the arctic in January or February 2019.
An official said: ‘We have completed user trials and, in our eyes, all was normal and while the final report has not been released, we are confident.’
The platform has been demonstrated for US Air Force officials, although there is no programme of record, and it has been demonstrated to militaries and governments in Western Europe, South-East Asia and the Middle East.
The platform is going to be exhibited at IDEX in Abu Dhabi in February 2019 and the company plans to take the platform out early to demonstrate it to potential customers.
The haptic controller is a pistol grip system which is in a large pelican case and provides the operator with adjustable feedback and resistance and allows for more delicate operations as well as the standard heavy lift and crushing actions of a conventional robotic arm.
A company official described this capability as ‘delicate and robust, the precision to operate a zipper and the strength to fire a weapon’.
The official said some potential customers were interested in using a more conventional control system but ‘this is mostly a desire for a common controller across the range of platforms they may already operate’.
Other payloads have been evaluated, including a twin robotic arm and EW and CBRNE systems, and payloads can be changed out by removing four bolts which can be done without special tools and there are four ports to connect payloads.
Phase one of the CRS-H trials has been completed for Harris and the phase two trials are expected in March or April 2019.
Phase one trials for QinetiQ North America, which is bidding the FX UGV in partnership with Northrop Grummman, are ongoing and Endeavour Robotics, which is bidding its Kobra UGV, will undergo evaluation soon.
A QinetiQ official said the company decided to partner with Northrop after looking at the requirement and because it was a rapid procurement best suited to a proven platform.
An Endeavor Robotics official said dozens of Kobra UGVs were in service, including with Washington DC’s Capitol Hill police force, and its ruggedness in difficult environments had been proven at the collapsed Fukishima nuclear reactor in Japan.