Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 29 January 2020

UAE off-road robot could deliver a Dh2 million windfall for Masdar Institute

The Abu Dhabi science and research establishment has teamed up with a Swiss ATV maker and a UK tech firm in its bid to develop an autonomous off-roader.
Masdar Institute will integrate Sand-X’s T-ATV 1200 all-terrain vehicle with artificial intelligence and automation along with QiniteQ to develop an all-terrain robot capable of with standing this country's harsh environment. Courtesy Sand-X Motors
Masdar Institute will integrate Sand-X’s T-ATV 1200 all-terrain vehicle with artificial intelligence and automation along with QiniteQ to develop an all-terrain robot capable of with standing this country's harsh environment. Courtesy Sand-X Motors

Masdar Institute researchers are hoping a new robot will deliver a cool Dh2 million to the science facility in a few months time.

The institute is partnering the Swiss-based all-terrain vehicle (ATV) developer Sand-X Motors and the British technology development and engineering company QinetiQ to develop an unmanned rover system (URS) able to thrive in the UAE’s harsh desert environment.

The vehicle will be entered into the Dh1m UAE Drones for Good Award and the Dh1m UAE AI and Robotics for Good Award, the winners of which will be announced in February in Dubai.

As well as the potential of a tasty windfall, the collaboration has its eye on the developing market for so-called mobile robotics. The market intelligence company Transparency Market Research forecasts that the global mobile robotics market, valued US$6.24 billion in 2012, could grow at a CAGR of 12.6 per cent to 2019 and be worth approximately US$14.2bn by then.

The Masdar project will integrate Sand-X’s ATV technology with artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to develop a purpose-built ground vehicle to meet the UAE’s URS needs. The URS programme is expected to lead to the development of a UAE-manufactured unmanned tactical vehicle that will provide logistical solutions, such as route clearance and the provision of relief aid to the front lines and refugee camps safely and securely.

The venture was announced at the URS award kick-off meeting at the weekend, which was hosted by the Defense Services Marketing Council (DSMC). The development programme was conceived as part of Masdar Institute and DSMC’s partnering to achieve innovation in defence & aerospace (Paida) working group.

“We believe that the URS program will ultimately lead to the development of disruptive technologies that will enable greater vehicle expeditionary mobility without sacrificing survivability,” said Steve Griffiths, the vice president for research and interim associate provost at the Masdar Institute. The collaboration builds on Masdar Institute’s ambition to develop strong platform capabilities in intelligent systems that are revolutionising multiple sectors.”

Some of the capabilities of the robot vehicle will include remote control, which will allow direct human input to drive the vehicle remotely; a “return home” capability, which enables the vehicle to return by fastest means to a fixed point without driver intervention; shuttle abilities, which allow the vehicle to move supplies between bases; and waypoint-follow, which enables the driver to send the vehicle ahead to the waypoint and then return to a preselected destination.

Sand-X will provide the land systems, including all current background intellectual property (IP) and hardware with data packages required by QinetiQ and Masdar Institute to integrate to the existing Sand-X T-ATV 1200 Tracked All-Terrain Vehicle.

QinetiQ was selected to be the chief industrial partner by Paida based on its extensive experience developing and manufacturing cutting-edge autonomous robotic military systems, such as the QinetiQ Raider II, which has capabilities that are achievable on the proposed URS ground vehicle.

“Development of novel autonomous systems that optimise military platforms for operations is a core capability within QinetiQ,” said Iain Farley, the managing director for international at QinetiQ. “We are confident that this collaborative project will build on our previous successes, and support the objectives of the autonomous ground URS programme.”

And the new robot may well deliver the joy of a Dh2m windfall, too.

chnelson@thenational.ae

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Updated: November 1, 2016 04:00 AM

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