The Lockheed Martin Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment (MULE) robotic vehicle's Engineering Evaluation Unit (EEU) recently reached a major milestone in demonstrating autonomous navigation over complex obstacles, such as steps and gaps. The EEU autonomously climbed a 30-inch step and bridged a 70-inch gap without operator intervention, using only parametric descriptions of the obstacles and the vehicle's self-awareness.
This capability exceeds the performance of other high-mobility vehicles, such as the HMMWV. Although a smaller vehicle, the MULE is able to address complex obstacles, such the ones used for the demonstration at a testing facility, by employing its specialized articulating suspension.
"We've now demonstrated mobility that exceeds the HMMWV or any other small combat vehicle," said Joe Zinecker, program manager for the FCS MULE at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "The MULE can keep up with dismounted Soldiers, and will not be restricted to roads or trails like most other vehicles. We are eager to provide this capability to our Soldiers as early as 2013."
The EEU represents a full-scale MULE vehicle, and is the largest and most sophisticated robotic vehicle yet constructed by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control and its partners in Unmanned Ground Vehicle development. The EEU was designed and built in only 13 months by Lockheed Martin and subcontractors MillenWorks and BAE Systems. Since December 2006, the team has incorporated a series of hardware and software enhancements, and has subjected the EEU to a variety of risk mitigation challenges.
The MULE/ARV-Assault Light, a 3.5-ton class vehicle for the Future Combat Systems Program, offers an extraordinary capability that will support the U.S. Army's transformation to a lighter and more mobile fighting force. The robot's unique mobility will enable it to go everywhere the Soldier can go and more. It will allow Soldiers of the transformed Army to use technology to perform a number of dull, dirty and dangerous jobs performed by Soldiers today, freeing troops to focus more effectively on the success of their mission.
The MULE/ARV-Assault Light's highly mobile platform is a unique 6x6 independent articulated suspension. Coupled with in-hub motors powering each wheel, the suspension system provides extreme mobility in complex terrain, far exceeding that of vehicles utilizing more conventional suspension systems. The ARV-Assault Light version will be armed with a line-of-sight gun and an anti-tank capability. It is designed to provide immediate, heavy firepower to the dismounted Soldier.
The Transport MULE configuration is designed to support the Future Force Soldier by providing the volume and payload capacity to carry the equipment and supplies to support two dismounted Infantry Squads. Multiple tie-down points and removable/foldable side railings will support virtually any payload variation. It is suited to support casualty evacuation needs as well.
Lockheed Martin's experience in unmanned systems is unmatched with proven capabilities across all domains including air, land, sea and space. An integrated system-of-systems approach allows Lockheed Martin to meet the challenges of network-centric warfare where both manned and unmanned technologies work collaboratively, increasing the affordability of the technology, the efficiency of the total force and ultimately, the success of their missions.