Michael Peck [timestamp]
During the Aberdeen demonstration, Honeywell showed a windowless cockpit mounted in an all-terrain vehicle with an opaque canopy.
The Mad Scientists at DARPA Want to Build a Tank for the Army Like No Other
DARPA has offered a peek at what may be the tank of the future.
Or, at least how the tank of the future will move. Several contractors recently demonstrated how they intend to improve mobility and situational awareness for DARPA's Ground X-Vehicle Technologies (GXV-T) research project, which aims to develop a small, lightweight vehicle that may look like a dune buggy or one of those Mars rovers.
“We’re looking at how to enhance survivability by buttoning up the cockpit and augmenting the crew through driver-assistance aids,” said Maj. Amber Walker, DARPA’s GXV-T program manager, in an agency news release. “For mobility, we’ve taken a radically different approach by avoiding armor and developing options to move quickly and be agile over all terrain.”
During a May demonstration at the Army’s Aberdeen Test Center, various design teams showed off their work. A Carnegie Mellon University team demonstrated “shape-shifting wheel-track mechanisms that transition from a round wheel to a triangular track and back again while the vehicle is on the move, for instant improvements to tactical mobility and maneuverability on diverse terrains.”
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Qinetiq displayed electric motors built directly into a vehicle's wheel hubs. while Pratt & Miller climbed steep slopes using “a novel high-travel suspension that extends up to six feet—forty-two inches upward and thirty inches downward,” according to DARPA.
Traditional armored vehicles have small windows and periscopes that offer limited visibility. Much like the F-35 fighter, GXV-T will have a ring of sensors to provide 360-degree situational awareness without the poor tank commander having to stick his neck out of the hatch.
During the Aberdeen demonstration, Honeywell showed a windowless cockpit mounted in an all-terrain vehicle with an opaque canopy. The crew has 3-D goggles and wraparound displays. “In off-road courses, drivers have completed numerous tests using the system in roughly the same time as drivers in ATVs with full visibility,” DARPA notes.
Raytheon's Virtual Perspectives Augmenting Natural Experience (V-PANE) system fused data from multiple video and Lidar cameras mounted on the vehicle, to create a real-time 3-D model of the vehicle and the terrain around it. Carnegie Mellon's Off-Road Crew Augmentation (ORCA) predicts the best and safest route for the vehicle.
Interestingly, the ORCA software enables the vehicle, if needed, to drive itself off-road—”even around obstacles,” according to DARPA. Which raises the question of whether DARPA’s tank of the future will be able to function autonomously.