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Lockheed Removes Soldiers From Military Convoys

All military vehicles may soon be autonomous. Also, monkeys control robotic arms with their minds, and DARPA preps for subterranean warfare.

Monkeys Control Robotic Arms

Neuroscientists at the University of Chicago are implanting electrodes into the brains of amputees so that they can control a robotic arm. In the past, studies have been performed on paralyzed patients, but this is the first to test the technology in amputees, included subjects that have had the amputation for several years.

The researchers enlisted three rhesus monkeys that had been living with arm amputations for up to ten years. The researchers implanted the electrodes on both the side of the brain that controlled the amputated arm, and the side that controlled an existing arm. They found that even though the parts of the brain that formerly controlled the lost lib had essentially been dark a decade, they were able to light them back up by getting the monkeys to try and trigger that part of the brain.In this case the monkeys tried to manipulate a robotic arm to grab a ball.

In the section of the brain that controlled the intact limb, the monkeys actually rebuilt a new network capable of controlling the remaining limb as well as the robotic limb. It was actually more dense, or stronger, than it ever was before.  

Next, the team hopes to collaborate with other groups to outfit the neuroprosthetic limbs with sensory feedback that will let the monkeys feel touch as well as sense where the limb is located in space. The researchers did stress that the limbs were not amputated for the study.

DARPA Wants Better Underground Mapping

Human-made tunnels, natural caves, and underground urban infrastructure has been a part of U.S. military operations since World War II, it's what they call subterranean warfare. Given the influx of above ground military intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance techniques, such as the boom in technology like unmanned drones, the enemy is heading underground. So now, the military needs a better way to rapidly map underground environments. 

Heading the charge is DARPA, which recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) to find state-of-the-art technologies that could map and navigate complex underground environments for everything for surveillance to search and rescue missions.

A good start would be the Elios from Flyability. If you recall, that is the drone that has a carbon fiber shell in order to navigate confined spaces. Although, the DARPA might be a little late to the party, as the European Space Agency has been testing the tech in harsh environments since May.

If you're interested, you have two weeks to send DARPA your ideas. So, get on it before that holiday season malaise digs its sedentary claws into you.

Lockheed Removes Soldiers From Military Convoys

The Autonomous Mobility Applique System (AMAS) developed by Lockheed Martin has now logged more than 55,000 miles at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, and Fort Bliss in Texas.

Part of the U.S. Army's Extended Warfighter Experiment, the system is a kit of sensors, actuators and controls that can turn pretty much any military vehicle into a semi-autonomous vehicle. It also turns vehicles into slaves that will follow a lead vehicle, this means that convoys could be completed with fewer (if any) soldiers, who are then freed up to perform other missions. During these tests, up to four vehicles autonomously followed a lead vehicle driven by soldier.

According to Lockheed, the AMAS helps prevent soldiers from being exposed to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) while on resupply missions -- unless, you know, you're driving the lead vehicle. Next the company is working on finding new applications that could stand to benefit from the AMAS system.

This is Engineering By Design with David Mantey.

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