American hybrid truck design company, Nikola, has revealed details of the ongoing conversion of its manned Reckless electric 4×4 vehicle into a UGV integrated with the Planck Shearwater quadrotor unmanned system.
Speaking at AUSA in Washington DC on October 8, a company official said the unmanned version was being developed under contract with US Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
The company expects to have a vehicle delivered to SOCOM before the end of the year for technical demonstrations in early 2019 and a further series of demonstrations in March or April. The system will initially be operated by remote control and a soldier following system with further development using LIDAR or other systems a possibility later.
The unmanned system will be able to be fitted with bolt-on accessories such as remote weapon stations or sensors and can be configured for logistics and casualty evacuation but will retain the forward two seats to allow it to be driven to the field of operations.
It is powered by a 125kw/h battery and the base footprint is for it to be able to fit into a V-22 Osprey or variant and larger aircraft. The vehicle has a range of 240km, a weight of 1,496kg-2,041kg, a payload capacity up to 1,360kg, a height of 1.47m or 1.8m with roll cage, a length of 3.83m, and a width of 1.5m.
The official said there has been some interest from military forces but with the system at prototype stage and specific requirements further away these were longer term considerations.
A key application for the platform is for use with the Planck Shearwater quadcopter unmanned system which can land and launch from a moving platform. The Shearwater identifies its recovering platform using a unique QR-code style of marking on the landing area and on landing is locked into place by four contracting cables to prevent movement during travel.
The platform can carry a total payload of almost 4kg, meaning it can carry a small camera and communications relay, and has a height of 30cm and a tip-to-tip width and length of 70cm. It has an endurance of 25 minutes and 12 of the platforms are fielded with the system also being sold separately. The company has conducted 50 landings on moving Restless vehicles.
It can also operate as a tethered UAV even from a moving platform allowing for continuous surveillance in support of an untethered UAV.
The company has evaluated automatic recharging of UAVs when they return to the vehicle and has carried out induction recharging, which has limitations, but is also evaluating conduction recharging which would occur through the feet of the platform.