Pittsburgh group develops better sensors for unmanned vehicles

PITTSBURGH, 11 May 2005. The National Center for Defense Robotics (NCDR) today announced that it has signed a $1.25 million master sub-contract with Pennsylvania State University's Electro-Optics Center (EOC) to develop lower cost, lower weight, less power-hungry electro-optical sensors for unmanned ground vehicles.

PITTSBURGH, 11 May 2005. The National Center for Defense Robotics (NCDR) today announced that it has signed a $1.25 million master sub-contract with Pennsylvania State University's Electro-Optics Center (EOC) to develop lower cost, lower weight, less power-hungry electro-optical sensors for unmanned ground vehicles, and to explore methods of manufacturing and testing them more efficiently and cost-effectively.

The NCDR also announced that it has begun to sub-contract with Agile Robotics Alliance member companies and organizations to undertake a number of key projects under the EOC contract.

The first two projects were awarded to Pittsburgh-based RE2, Inc. (Robotics Engineering Excellence) and SEEGRID. The results of these projects are expected to address specific unmet government needs, to drive subsequent military utilization and/or commercial productization activities, and to help generate new jobs in the growing field of agile robotics.

Pittsburgh-based re2, Inc., a Carnegie Mellon spin-off company specializing in mobile defense robotics with an emphasis on unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) and unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), will undertake an effort to research and determine the feasibility of establishing an indoor and/or outdoor experimentation center for assessing the performance of various electro-optic sensors on unmanned vehicles and other applications.

re2 won the contract because of its experience with teleoperated and autonomous unmanned systems, which require a multitude of sensors for automation, the company said. Such sensors include LADAR, RADAR, CCD Cameras, SONAR, and FLIR cameras. The main advantage of having re2, Inc. perform the requirements study for an experimentation center is that the company is not vested in any one sensing modality. For more information, see www.resquared.com.

SEEGRID, Inc., a developer of automation products that enable manufacturers, warehouses and distribution centers to automate their day-to- day material handling processes, is also based in Pittsburgh and will undertake a project to develop a standardized, multi-variant methodology for measuring the effectiveness of different electro-optic sensors on various unmanned vehicle platforms and then using that methodology to objectively assess and rank various, currently available, off-the-shelf sensors and devices. For more information, see www.seegrid.com.

"Developing and being able to produce electro-optical sensors and devices specific to the requirements of unmanned ground vehicles is essential to enabling their ability to operate more autonomously," said Bill Thomasmeyer, president of the NCDR and executive vice president of The Technology Collaborative. "We are fortunate to have such a strong, able, and willing partner in the EOC with their growing resources and extensive expertise in electro-optic sensors and systems to help us achieve these objectives."

"Penn State University has a proud history of advancing research that also creates economic opportunities for Pennsylvania," said Karl Harris, director of the EOC. "The growing relationship between the EOC and the NCDR is certainly creating good research and exciting opportunities that will not only benefit our region but our nation as well."

Formed in December 2004 as the result of a merger between The Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse and The Robotics Foundry, The Technology Collaborative's mission is to help increase Pennsylvania's technology-based economy by developing collaborating industry clusters that leverage the region's world- class assets in advanced electronics, cyber security, and agile robotics. For more information, see www.technologycollaborative.org.

The Electro-Optics Center was established as an enabler of electro-optics manufacturing technology. Established and managed by Penn State under an ONR MANTECH initiative, the EOC exists to serve the need for electro-optics manufacturing technology through development and execution of technical programs, workforce development at all levels, and transition of technology to production. The EOC has formed an alliance of industry, academic and professional organizations, and government resources, called the Electro- Optics Alliance, which helps the EOC to integrate technologies and capabilities to solve electro-optic manufacturing issues.

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