Marine Corps Eyeing Modular, Interoperable Robotic Systems

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April 6, 2019 | Originally published by Date Line: April 6 on

At the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, officials are grappling with an evolving threat environment that requires the development of cutting-edge capabilities to keep pace with adversaries, said Jeff Tomczak, the lab’s deputy director for science and technology.

One area of focus is the infantry squad. The service wants to give Marines robotic systems that enhance their capabilities on the ground.

“I see things changing so rapidly in the robotics world,” Tomczak said during an interview. “There are requirements that are being built that are going to expand the use of robotics systems across the whole spectrum of robotic systems — air, ground, surface.”

However, the service doesn’t want to pursue technology that will become a liability for Marines, he noted.

“You want a battle buddy and you want something that is as good or better than what you have in regard to either a person next to you or a piece of equipment next to you,” he said. “What we don’t want to do is just add another tool in the tool kit that they don’t use.”

The lab plans to invest in fully autonomous systems, he noted.

When it comes to ground robots, modularity is important, Tomczak said. The warfighting lab is currently working on a ground system known as the expeditionary modular autonomous vehicle, or EMAV. The tracked platform has a flat top that can carry more than 7,000 pounds. The service can outfit it with different types of sensors, communications equipment or weapons, he said. It is also able to transport causalities.