Friday, August 12, 2005

Robotic Vehicles For US Army Create Jobs

Tripling the size of a General Dynamics plant in Westminster will mean an expanded work force.
By Mary Gail Hare
Baltimore Sun Staff

The Army has lagged behind the Navy and Air Force in automation, said John Pike, who operates Global Security, a defense policy Web site.

"About the only way to automate the Army is through robots," Pike said in a phone interview. "This could be the biggest thing to hit the military since the internal combustion engine. Initially, robots will drive trucks, but down the road, you could give them guns and train them in the Army way."

"The idea is to take this technology and militarize it," said Shoemaker, who said the Army is spending nearly $1 billion on research and development of robotics. "We can use the same core technology to control a robotic mule or a tank."

The jeep, for example, monitored its space to figure its way around the concrete barrier placed in the way after its route was programmed.

The robotic equipment can determine if a ditch is too deep to cross, identify hills and brush and differentiate, in the dark, between asphalt and water.

"These vehicles can deal with a lot of stuff and not bother the soldier with any of it," said Mark Del Giorno, vice president for engineering at the Westminster [Maryland, US] plant. "This information supplements what the soldier already knows and allows him to make better plans ahead of time."

It and several other robotic vehicles were put through their paces yesterday at the Westminster facility of General Dynamics Robotic Systems, which has obtained a $230 million contract to develop the technology for the Pentagon.

To accomplish the work, the company broke ground yesterday on a $10 million, 150,000-square-foot expansion that will triple the size of the Westminster facility and add 135 jobs to the 400-employee work force.

Robotics' task -- create jobs -


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