The United States Marine Corps has competed the first live tests of a new autonomous off-road vehicle called Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate (GUSS). It was developed by TORC Robotics, Virginia Tech University, and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD).
The purpose of the GUSS is to transport gear and evacuate injured soldiers without putting additional Marines at risk. It’s based on the Internally Transportable Vehicle, which is small enough to be carried inside a Chinook helicopter, and looks very similar to a Jeep.
The GUSS comes equipped with a LIDAR scanner, cameras, and highly advanced mapping computers which enable it to operate entirely on its own, or be directed remotely by a Marine who’s using a Tactical Robotic Controller. It also has exceptional situational and environmental awareness thanks to its numerous electronic eyes, which enable it to avoid obstacles even in dense wilderness areas.
In a normal operation, the GUSS will lock onto a beacon that’s being carried by a marine and will drive alongside the unit at a walking pace. It can haul over 1600 pounds of equipment which would lighten the burden carried by each Marine by at least 40 pounds. Operators of the vehicle can also send the GUSS to a target location, fully unmanned, to ship needed supplies to troops or evacuate the wounded from the front lines. Despite its ability to function on its own, it’s unlikely that the GUSS would ever be left unsecured while it’s carrying supplies or wounded soldiers.
While the GUSS looks promising, it’s still a prototype project and has at least another couple of years of testing before it’s actually ready to be considered for deployment. However, the team behind the vehicle say that the technology could be ready to be put on the field as early as 2020.
Read more about the story at Ars Technica.