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Robowagons roll! US Army tests all-drone supply unit

We got a robot convoy, rockin' through the night...

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The US Army has successfully completed tests of a convoy delivery system made entirely of unmanned vehicles.

The Army, along with Lockheed Martin, performed tests at the Fort Hood base in Texas earlier this month. The test pitted a caravan of vehicles against a series of obstacles designed to simulate an urban environment.

Lockheed Martin said that the vehicles, developed with its Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS), were able to maneuver through tests including traffic, pedestrians, obstacles and stalled vehicles.

The test provided a capabilities advancement demonstration (CAD) for the joint program between Lockheed Martin and the Army aimed at developing autonomous convoy units which would not require soldiers to occupy the cab of vehicles during supply runs.

Such supply caravans often come under attack from enemy forces in conflict areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan. By eliminating the need for drivers, the Army believes it can help to protect soldiers abroad.

"It was very important that we had representation from the technology, acquisition and user bases, along with our industry partners, here at the CAD," said technical manager Bernard Theisen of the Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. "We are very pleased with the results of the demonstration, because it adds substantial weight to the Army’s determination to get robotic systems into the hands of the warfighter."

Military forces around the world are increasingly looking to drone vehicles as a safer and cheaper alternative to tasks which used to require human pilots, drivers or engineers to perform. Officials have touted the use of robots and autonomous vehicles in helping to save the lives of soldiers in fields such as supply transports and bomb disposal.

In the private sector, drone deliveries have been received with great fanfare, if not a healthy does of skepticism. Amazon won headlines when it rolled out plans for a a full fleet of drone delivery vheicles capable of picking up and dropping off packages. The practicality of such a plan, however, remains in doubt.

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