Army to test Robotic Combat Vehicle control system

By Ethan Sterenfeld / January 27, 2021 at 1:56 PM

The Army will conduct a study Jan. 28 to compare the performance of helmet- and vehicle-mounted displays for remotely piloting unmanned combat vehicles, the Army's Combat Capabilities Development Command announced this week.

This study is expected to help the Army refine the way soldiers will control Robotic Combat Vehicles, an upcoming family of unmanned tracked combat vehicles.

In the scenario envisioned by the study, three soldiers would work inside a single manned control vehicle to control two nearby RCVs, according to a statement from Chris Mikulski, the leader of crew optimization and augmentation technology within DEVCOM's Ground Vehicle Systems Center.

One soldier would operate the control vehicle, while the other two soldiers in the vehicle would each control one RCV, Mikulski wrote. The remote drivers would send throttle and steering commands from the manned control vehicle, while the robotic vehicles would send back a live image.

This study will analyze whether soldiers should receive that live image through a display mounted on the vehicle or in their helmets, Mikulski wrote.

"As we add new technologies to the crew station, a simulation experiment, like this one, allows us to quickly gather feedback and performance data in a cost-effective manner before physical prototypes are built," he wrote.

The manned control vehicle has not been built yet, so soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division will conduct the study from a vehicle simulator, Mikulski wrote. Software will simulate the video feed that the remote vehicles would send to the operators.

"The physical cockpit for each driver (i.e. the seat, displays, controllers, etc.) is a physical prototype -- all situated in a large, metal box," he wrote. "The box sits on a physical platform that has a limited range to move forward and back, up and down, side-to-side, as well as yaw, pitch and roll."

QinetiQ and Textron won contracts last year to build prototypes of the small and medium variants of the RCV. The Army used "surrogates" that resemble the vehicles to see how soldiers might interact with them in the field during exercises in August and November.