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Linux powers autonomous military ground vehicle

Feb 1, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 20 views

iRobot used embedded Linux to build an autonomous unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) aimed at military scouting, guarding, and hauling applications. The “R-Gator” is based on John Deere's diesel-powered, 658cc M-Gator military utility vehicle platform, with control, navigation, and object-avoidance systems based on BlueCat… Linux from LynuxWorks.

R-Gator is based on John Deere's M-Gator platform
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iRobot describes R-Gator as “an intelligent UGV that can autonomously perform dangerous military missions, including acting as an unmanned scout, 'point man,' perimeter guard, [and] pack/ammo/supply carrier for soldiers, marines, and airmen.” The R-Gator can be shifted quickly between remote operation, autonomous, and manual modes, a feature that lets military personnel evaluate unmanned vehicle technology in “numerous operational scenarios,” the company says.

R-Gator in automous robotic follow mode
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In autonomous mode, the vehicle can provide robotic following, as shown in the photo above. Or, it can autonomously navigate to GPS waypoints, using “teach and playback,” iRobot says.

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The R-Gator's control, navigation, and obstacle avoidance systems are based on LynuxWorks's BlueCat Linux, which features a 2.6 Linux kernel. LynuxWorks says BlueCat provides a stable, reliable COTS (commercial, off-the-shelf) embedded OS suitable for both small, consumer-type devices and large-scale, multi-CPU systems.

LynuxWorks CEO Inder Singh stated, “We continue to see Linux and open standards gain tremendous momentum [in] mission-critical military systems. Linux is rapidly becoming the leading de-facto open standard embedded platform in both commercial and military systems that require a high degree of interoperability and software reuse.”

Retired Navy Vice Admiral Joe Dyer stated, “The iRobot John Deere R-Gator can perform treacherous and strenuous duties, keeping soldiers out of harm's way.”

In addition to the R-Gator, iRobot makes several other military robots based in Linux. “All our military robots are based on Linux,” said Osa Fitch, program executive of iRobot's government and industrial robotics division, speaking today at LynuxWorks's invitation-only “Vision Summit” in San Jose.

iRobot's PackBot Scout, Explorer, and EOD
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iRobot's other Linux-powered military robots include three variations of its tractor-like “PackBot” design, including Scout, Explorer, and EOD models respectively targeting reconnaisance, intelligence, and EOD (explosive ordnance disposal).

Additionally, iRobot markets “roomba” and “scooba” robots aimed respectively at domestic floor vacuuming and mopping.

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