Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) is a robotic vehicle operating without a human onboard, replacing the most advanced sensor – the human – with LiDAR, camera and other sensors. A human has a wide range of sensor functions to understand the environment, and to act on information it receives. A human will easier be able to operate in complex environments, such as snow, because we know how it “feels”. Sensor technology can add sensor functions that humans do not have to understand the environment better, for example infrared sensors. Historically it has been very difficult to compile and analyze sensor data, and especially for complex environments.
Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) have a potential to perform tasks faster and not least safer than personnel and manned vehicles can. This applies in particular if the vehicle is also self-driving (autonomous). FFI has developed a separate research platform for autonomous off-road driving. The aim is to demonstrate autonomous driving and mission solving in challenging terrain and create a good technological platform in this field.
The projects that form the basis for a possible commercialization have worked on everything from how the vehicle is controlled to how the vehicle perceives its surroundings and how it makes decisions. For example, it has been used in a base defense system, where autonomous vehicles are sent out to check what triggered an alarm. This makes it possible to defend larger installations more effectively in the future.
Three ways of controlling an UGV
1) Teleoperated: The operator uses a remote control to directly control the UGV's movement, actions, and sensors. The operator receives real-time information from the UGV's sensors and can make decisions based on this information.
2) Semi-autonomous: The UGV operates autonomously most of the time, following a predefined mission plan or using onboard sensors and artificial intelligence to make decisions. The operator can intervene at any time to provide guidance or override the UGV's actions.
3) Fully autonomous: The UGV operates entirely on its own without any human intervention (except making mission plan). It uses on-board sensors, artificial intelligence, and maps to navigate its environment, avoid obstacles, and complete tasks.
The goal for the commercial solution offered is to gradually increase the degree of autonomy from research to industrialization.
UGVs are a game changer across multiple industries because:
• Strong economic and social value propositions
• Cost efficiency: Can be used 24/7 and less labor needed
• Environmentally friendly: Smaller vehicles to perform the same task. Can operate on batteries.
• Safer: Can operate in hazardous environments without a human present
• Data capture: Can be used to capture large amounts of data
In special, arctic woodlands is very difficult for sensors to analyze because it’s difficult to know what is an obstacle or not, difficult to estimate terrain. Lack of reference points makes it difficult to estimate location. FFI has for several years developed and demonstrated situational awareness for autonomous platforms with advanced sensor fusion software in complex environment.
There are significant market drivers for the development of autonomous UGVs for rough terrain. The military can use UGV as an operational capability, for logistics and reconnaissance. Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) services are designed to keep your people and projects safe from the risk of encountering unexploded ordnance (UXO). They will get a tool for identifying and removing mines in a safe and efficient way. UGVs can be used for rescue operation in complex and hazardous environments, for example when there has been an avalanche or an earthquake. UGV can be used for monitoring of industrial premises, military base, for use by civil authority, an in agriculture & forestry for transport, crop protection and harvesting. In the industry it can be used for mining operations in hazardous areas.
Markedsanalysen som er gjennomført viser et betydlig kommersielt potensial for UGV teknologi både innenfor militær og sivil sektor. En kommersiell løsning vil både ha effektiviseringsgevinster, øke sikkerhet og er mer miljøvennlige enn dagens løsninger. Mye av tyngden til dagens plattformer er for å beskytte personell.