Unmanned Technology Takes Center Stage at DoD Lab Day

By Yolanda R. Arrington
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Video by Army Staff Sgt. Bruce Petitt

Pentagon innovations were on display at the Defense Department’s Lab Day. Scientists, researchers and innovators from across the department showcased the latest in military advancements in the Pentagon’s courtyard, May 18. The day marked the second time the DoD brought its science community together for the event. The first Lab Day was held in 2015.

A student experiences firing a Navy machine gun in virtual reality during Department of Defense Lab Day at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. May 18, 2017. (DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

One theme that ruled the day was autonomy. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command gave Pentagon visitors a hands-on demonstration of its Gunnery System with Augmented Reality, or GunnAR. The system lets a gunner wearing an augmented reality headset hear commands from a gunner liaison officer via a tablet interface. Visitors at Lab Day could wear the goggles and fire at enemy vessels and aircraft from a .50-caliber machine gun replica while looking out from the deck of a ship.

The Navy displays its high-speed Warpedo vehicle which could someday be used for port security. (Department of Defense photo by Air Force Airman 1st Class Jose Gonzalez)

The Navy featured its Warpedo high-speed unmanned surface vehicle that can travel at least 100 mph. Made of carbon fiber, Kevlar and fiberglass, the 23-pound tube may one day be used for port security.

A pair of bomb disposal robots exchange soft drink bottle during a demonstration during the Department of Defense Lab Day at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. May 18, 2017. (DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

What would a technology demonstration day be without a few robots? Robots were on the move in the Pentagon courtyard, demonstrating an impressive hand-off of an empty beverage bottle. The Joint Service Unmanned Systems Technology division of Naval Sea Systems Command at Indian Head, Maryland, developed the robots which are currently used in theater as bomb disposers, doing dangerous jobs that human service members once risked their lives to do.

The Remote Access Nondestructive Evaluation Snake arm system is shown inspecting fasteners during a recent demonstration at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. (Air Force photo by Charles Buynak)

The Air Force’s Remote Access Nondestructive Evaluation tool makes inspections easier for airmen. The RANDE device is a snakelike arm equipped with a camera that allows for robotic-assisted wing inspections. Previously, an airman, small in stature, would have to crawl into an opening with a small circumference to perform an inspection. Now, with the RANDE device, that process can be simplified.

Dr. John Corley holds a 3D-printed model of the Massive Ordnance Air Blast. (DoD photo by Army Staff Sgt. Bruce Petitt)

The Air Force is also working on making the “mother of all bombs” smaller and lighter. The Advanced Ordnance Technologies program has devised a Massive Ordnance Air Blast model with 3D-printed parts to shift the bomb’s load and cut down on debris.

The Army’s Engineer Research and Development Center’s Multifunctional Assessment Reconnaissance Vessel holds several different sensor arrays and cameras that can rapidly collect data and imagery to identify damaged areas underneath a pier facility. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Miranda)

The Army’s Engineer Research and Development Center is also working with autonomous vehicles. The Multifunctional Assessment Reconnaissance Vessel is a six-feet-long vessel designed to travel with a four man team for rapid deployment and assessment of pile supported marine structures. The remotely-piloted system can scan areas to determine the structural characteristics of marine structures after natural disasters.

The continued effort to move to more autonomous devices could save lives by keeping service members from doing dangerous jobs. It could also greatly reduce costs and speed up military operations.

Dozens of military innovations were featured during Lab Day. We couldn’t list them all, but you can check out videos and photos from the day on DVIDS and Flickr.

RELATED LINKS: DoD Lab Day Features Innovation Underlying U.S. Military Superiority
DoD Lab Day Spotlights Military Advancements
DoD Lab Day Showcases Robots, Missiles & More
DoD Lab Day Features Safety & Intelligence Advancements
Sensors, Wind Energy & More Innovations Demonstrated at DoD Lab Day

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