Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot

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The Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (BEAR) was a robot developed by Vecna Robotics for use in the extraction of wounded soldiers from the battlefield with no risk to human life. The humanoid robot used a powerful hydraulics system to carry humans and other heavy objects over long distances and rough terrain such as stairs. The robot's cameras and microphone allow an operator to remotely control the BEAR. Work on the robot commenced in 2005 and it was featured in Time Magazine's Best Inventions of 2006. The BEAR wrapped up development and testing for applications on and off of the battlefield in 2011.[1]

Features and technology[edit]

The BEAR is a six feet tall humanoid robot with advanced technology and features that make the robot effective and intelligent. It is remotely controlled, has several sensors, and contains a hydraulic actuator.

Specifications[edit]

  • Six feet tall
  • Hydraulic upper body lifts 500 lbs[2]
  • Steel torso
  • Maximum hydraulic exertion of 3000 PSI[1]

Controls[edit]

The initial versions of the BEAR were remotely controlled by a human operator who was able to see and hear through the robot's sensors. Developments to the BEAR's AI have given the robot the ability to process higher level commands given by an operator such as "go to this location" or "pick up that box."[1] If the robot is unable to execute the operator's command, it is programmed to ask the operator for assistance to complete a task.[3]

The robot may also be remotely controlled by a soldier through a device known as the iGlove. The motion-capture glove developed by AnthroTronix allows the soldier to make a simple hand gesture to command the BEAR. Another remote control for the BEAR is called the Mounted Force Controller. It's a specialized rifle grip mounted on an M4 carbine so soldiers can continue to command the BEAR without putting down their weapon.[citation needed]

Actuators[edit]

The BEAR is powered through a hydraulic actuator which gives the robot the ability to lift 500 pounds. The hydraulic actuator is controlled by solenoids that turn the hydraulic valves on and off to make the robot move.[1] The BEAR's tracked legs are electronically powered. The battery pack powers the tracked legs for up to an hour. Further developments to the battery pack should double its capacity and give the BEAR's tracked legs two hours of run time.[3]

Sensors[edit]

The latest version of the BEAR robot had infrared, night vision, and optical cameras as well as a microphone.[3]

Later developments included:
Touch and pressure sensors on the BEAR's hands
Chemical and biological agent detection sensors[4]

Features[edit]

The BEAR's hands are very strong; however they are also precise enough to grasp an egg without breaking it.[3] Vecna's roboticists designed the robot with a teddy bear face to provide those being rescued comfort and reassurance.[2] Dynamic Balance Behavior (DBB) technology gives the BEAR the ability to maintain balance in any position even while carrying heavy objects.[5]

Development history[edit]

Project origins[edit]

Vecna Robotics began developing the Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot in 2005 at its Cambridge Research Laboratory near Boston, Massachusetts. [5]

Technological developments[edit]

The BEAR's technology and features have improved dramatically since its early stages of development. The BEAR went through nine stages of development. Numerous features were added since the BEAR's early stages, including

  • Explosion and fire-resistant treads
  • Explosion and fire-resistant battery
  • Enhanced dexterity
  • Improved strength
    • The BEAR can lift 520 pounds, previous versions could only lift 360 pounds
    • Steel Frame (4× stronger than its aluminum predecessor)[1]
  • Independent legs for enhanced mobility[4]
  • Steel framing around the hydraulic lines and battery[3]

Project funding[edit]

The BEAR project's primary funding source has been from Vecna's internal research and development funds. External sources of funding come from the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and DARPA. The project also has numerous sponsors including Hydro-Force, Microchip and National Instruments.[3] In 2007, Congress approved a $1 million grant towards further development of the BEAR project.[1]

Testing[edit]

The BEAR has been tested at Fort Benning, Georgia at the U.S. Army Infantry Center Maneuver Battle Lab with soldiers. In 2010, soldiers worked with the robot to develop tactics and test its effectiveness in combat scenarios.[6]


Applications[edit]

The BEAR can carry a wounded soldier far away from a hazardous environment to a place where a medic can assess their injuries safely without risk to the medic's life. The BEAR is slim enough to fit through doors and the BEAR's tracks enable it to climb stairs.[1]

Other application of the BEAR include:
  • Search & rescue
  • Transporting supplies
  • Clearing obstacles
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Handling hazardous materials
  • Reconnaissance
  • Inspecting for mines and IEDs[7]

Robots similar to the BEAR[edit]


References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Klein, Jonathan, and Tom Atwood. " Vecna Robot Exclusive." Robot n. pag. Web. 19 Jan 2011. <http://www.botmag.com/articles/04-25-07_vecna_bear.shtml> Archived 20 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b "Bear robot rescues wounded troops ." BBC News. BBC, 7 June 2007. Web. 19 Jan 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6729745.stm>.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Allen, Andrew. Interview by Sander Olson. 1. Web. 26 Jan 2011. <http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/09/andrew-allen-of-bear-robot-program-is.html>.
  4. ^ a b "The BEAR Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot." Vecna Robotics. Vecna, n.d. Web. 25 Jan 2011. <http://vecna.com/robotics/multimedia/downloads/BEAR.pdf> Archived 25 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ a b "Battle Extraction Assist Robot." Military Channel. Discovery Channel, n.d. Web. 26 Jan 2011. <http://military.discovery.com/technology/robots/heavy-ugv/bear.html>.
  6. ^ Ruppert, Barb. "The Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot to Rescue Wounded on Battlefield." American Military News. MilitaryInfo, 22 Nov 2010. Web. 26 Jan 2011. <http://www.militaryinfo.com/news_story.cfm?textnewsid=6556>.
  7. ^ "The BEAR™ — Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot." Vecna Robotics. Vecna, n.d. Web. 19 Jan 2011. <http://www.vecna.com/robotics/solutions/bear/index.shtml> Archived 23 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine.

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