UGCV PerceptOR
Integration (UPI)



Field Tests at Fort Bliss,
Texas, February 2008



Crusher lives up to its name

The UPI team conducted field tests at Ft. Bliss, Texas, in February 2008. This session's testing differed from previous field experiments. Previous field experiments tested Crusher in different types of terrain, focusing on evaluating new technologies and meeting various performance metrics (such as number of interventions per mile and average speed). In contrast, the latest field experiments evaluated how soldiers could actually use Crusher.

Crusher followed simulated military missions that were planned and executed by soldiers from Ft. Bliss. Soldiers designed missions, operated Crusher autonomously and remotely under teleoperation, and worked with Crusher payloads. Meanwhile, DARPA and NREC engineers monitored the vehicle’s performance. This unique opportunity for getting direct soldier feedback gave NREC and DARPA observers a chance to evaluate the usability of Crusher’s operator control systems. Crusher’s uptime and reliability were both excellent during the tests.

Highlights

Soldier Missions

Distance Traveled

Average Speed

Autonomous

164.21 km / 102.04 mi

4.23 m/s / 9.43 mph

Teleoperation

12.45 km / 7.74 mi

1.85 m/s / 4.13 mph

Simulated Missions


Crusher in action in the desert

Crushed performed a series of missions that were planned and executed by Ft. Bliss-based soldiers. These missions included establishing main and alternative supply routes, establishing and clearing the locations of forward operating bases, performing reconnaissance along routes, and traveling between checkpoints and observation posts.

Soldiers first sketched out missions on a white board, including mission goals and specific waypoints for Crusher to drive through. They then entered the course into a mission planning tool for further refinement. A member of Crusher’s autonomy team then uploaded the finished plan to the vehicle’s autonomy system, which executed it during the mission.

Crusher undertook these missions in an area of operations that was over 100 square kilometers in size – substantially larger than previous testing areas. Much of the test area consisted of relatively flat, vegetation-covered dunes. It also included dirt roads, trails, washes, and hills. Additionally, the test area featured a simulated urban area for testing military operations in urban terrain (MOUT).


Crusher performed missions in a simulated
urban environment

Three soldiers executed the missions as a team, operating Crusher autonomously and via teleoperation from the operator control station. Each member of the mission team had a different role, just as they would in an actual mission. Typically, one soldier operated the vehicle. A second operated Crusher’s payload, which included a stabilized, remote-operated small arms mount (ROSAM) with FLIR and day cameras plus a mast-mounted, stabilized remote surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA) sensor with FLIR and day cameras. A third soldier served as mission commander, coordinating the work of the driver and payload operator.


Crusher with mast extended; closeup of RSTA (right)

The soldiers successfully completed missions that included on-road driving, off-road driving in dunes, washes and hills, and urban operations. They quickly adapted to using Crusher as if it was standard military equipment. The UPI team was able to observe them during missions, collecting valuable feedback on mission procedures and protocols and how they actually used Crusher’s operator interfaces. Night Missions Crusher also performed a nighttime test run and a simulated night mission. Safety was an important issue for night operations; Ft. Bliss provided night vision equipment for the chase vehicle operators, radio control operator, and other personnel. Crusher was able to operate successfully in the dark and logged 13 km of operation during night exercises.


Crusher in action at night (still from video camera)


Images from sensors during nighttime operations

Operator Interfaces

Before the Ft. Bliss experiments, the UPI team iteratively designed a simplified operator interface based on in-house testing and soldier evaluation. The soldier operator interfaces presented essential vehicle and payload information in an easily understood format. The goal was to make Crusher easier to operate, reduce the learning curve for operators, and give its operators good situational awareness of the vehicle’s surroundings.

Soldier Operator Interfaces

Soldiers operated Crusher from a two-seat operator control station, shown below.


Soldier operator station

Payload and vehicle operators each had separate interfaces.

The vehicle operator monitored Crusher’s status and viewed images from its driving cameras and autonomy system on a computer screen. The operator used a steering wheel to drive the vehicle.

The payload operator viewed images from the RSTA or ROSAM sensors and system status indicators on the computer screen. The operator used a wireless video game controller to raise and lower the mast, pan the payload sensors, and perform similar operations.


Engineering Operator Interfaces

Meanwhile, DARPA and NREC observed Crusher’s systems from a separate engineering station. Vehicle and autonomy engineers worked from a command truck to monitor Crusher’s internal systems.


Command truck

The Engineering OCS was the original, information-rich version of Crusher’s vehicle and autonomy screens. It gave a complete picture of the vehicle’s status at any given moment. This “man behind the curtain” approach gave engineers full access to information about critical vehicle systems without disturbing the soldiers who were operating the vehicle. The Engineering OCS was the original, information-rich version of Crusher’s vehicle and autonomy screens. It gave a complete picture of the vehicle’s status at any given moment. This “man behind the curtain” approach gave engineers full access to information about critical vehicle systems without disturbing the soldiers who were operating the vehicle.


Soldier autonomy OCS


Engineering autonomy OCS


Soldier vehicle OCS



Engineering vehicle OCS

Crusher’s vehicle systems could also be monitored from an iPhone. This portable engineering interface gave UPI team members who were riding in the chase vehicle or were out in the field access to essential information about the vehicle’s status.


iPhone interface allowed engineers to
remotely monitor Crusher's vital statistics

Additional Pictures



Fort Bliss 2008 Field Tests Video