In the trenchesRobotic platform helps soldiers carry heavy gear

Published 27 October 2009

Israel Aerospace Industries unveils robotic platform designed for ground forces; the platform, carrying up to 200kg of gear, follows the lead soldier from a distance; the soldiers control the platform by using simple commands, including “stop,” “fetch,” and “heel”

Grunts would appreciate this innovation. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAIdisplayed, for the first time, its REX — a small robotic platform designed to accompany ground forces on operations. IAI demonstrated the UGV at the 2009 Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition, which opened last week in Seoul, Korea.

REX, which can carry up to 200 kilograms, is designed to assist groups of 3-10 ground soldiers on operational and logistical missions for up to 72 hours without refueling, and acts as a robotic “beast of burden” for the modern soldier.

Experts at IAI estimate that the demand for such a product could amount to tens of thousands of orders, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, in both the local and the international market, for a wide variety of military and civil applications.

The REX platform is unique in its state-of-the-art operational capabilities and its user-friendly interface, both of which are central to the platform’s superior performance,” explained Ofer Glazer, head of innovation at IAI. “The robotic vehicle follows the lead soldier from a given distance, utilizing technology developed and patented by IAI. Using simple commands, including ‘stop,’ ‘fetch,’ and ‘heel,’ the lead soldier controls the robot without being distracted from the mission at hand. Controlling the robot in this way allows for intuitive interaction and rapid integration of the product on the field within a short time frame,” Glazer added.

The development of the system is a result of IAI’s awareness of the operational need for such a device. It integrates various already existent robotic capabilities, ensuring a low target price, a short development period, and low-risk development.

REX was developed in the business and technological innovation department of IAI. This is a diverse department, composed of a team of young, dynamic entrepreneurs responsible for developing products in the newest fields of interest. The team exploits creative thinking and academic and industry-based joint projects, both in Israel and worldwide. One recent joint project was the Guardium — a robotic patrol vehicle (produced by the company GNIUS); another example is the Taxibot, a semi-robotic aircraft towing system. IAI signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the 2009 Paris Air Show jointly to develop Taxibot with Airbus, the largest aircraft company in Europe.