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Unmanned Ground Vehicles: Present and Future

    Combat Vehicles Research and             enabled a fighting force to exert a           expertise. Over the years, four different
Development Establishment (CVRDE) is         decisive advantage over its adversaries       laboratories were identified for UGV
one of the premier research establishments   in any conflict situation. This lesson is     development within DRDO, viz., Centre
under the Defence Research &                 very relevant in today’s rapidly changing     for Artificial Intelligence & Robotics
Development Organisation (DRDO).             battlefield scenarios, where countries        (CAIR), Bengaluru, Combat Vehicles
It has its origin as Chief Inspectorate of   having a technological advantage can          Research & Development Establishment
Mechanical Transport Establishment           dictate not only the outcome of an armed      (CVRDE), Chennai, Research &
(MTE), which was established in Chaklala     conflict, but can also make its presence      Development Establishment Engineers
(now in Pakistan) during World War II in     felt in political, economic and other inter-  (R&DE(E)), Pune and Vehicle Research
1929. After independence of India, this      related arenas. One such technology that is   & Development Establishment (VRDE),
establishment was moved to Ahmednagar        poised to dramatically alter the dynamics     Ahmednagar.
to form the Technical Development            of the battlefield is the Unmanned Ground
Establishment (TDE-Vehicles). It was         Vehicle (UGV). A UGV is essentially an            The categories of UGVs were classified
later transformed into Vehicles Research     evolution in combat technology that will      predominantly on the basis of weight and
& Development Establishment (VRDE),          have a large scale impact on the way future   traction: wheeled/tracked. Accordingly,
Ahmednagar.                                  wars will be planned, fought and won.         all UGVs classified as micro/macro which
                                                                                           weigh in the range of 5 kg to 50 kg are
    In 1965, when a decision was taken           The deployment of UGVs will not only      being developed by CAIR, those in the
to manufacture Vijayanta tanks in the        protect trained human lives in dangerous      range of one to three ton by R&DE (E),
country, the Heavy Vehicles Factory          battlefield situations but also a variety of  wheeled vehicles up to five ton by VRDE
(HVF) was set up at Avadi, Chennai.          potential UGV applications for military       and tracked vehicles beyond five ton by
To render R&D support to HVF, a              operations can significantly increase         CVRDE.
detachment of VRDE was established           mission performance, enhance combat
as a nucleus at Avadi on 01 August 1965      effectiveness, and ensure personnel safety.       CVRDE started the work in this multi-
and later it was made as an independent      The deployment of UGVs enable stand-          disciplinary UGV domain during 2007.
DRDO laboratory on 27 January 1969 with      off operations and thereby reduce or          Initially, tele-operation of a light weight
the name of ‘VRDE, Avadi’. Subsequently,     remove operator risks in highly stressful     all terrain tracked vehicle (Max Track
it was re-designated as CVRDE on             and dangerous environments, such as           IV) was developed. This was later scaled
26 March 1975.                               active minefields and areas of explosives     up by the development of a tele-operated
                                             or Chemical, Biological, Radiological and     modified BMP Nag Missile carrier
    CVRDE is working with a mission          Nuclear (CBRN) hazards. The diverse           (NAMICA).
‘design, develop and lead to production of   operational roles a UGV can perform
tracked armoured vehicles and specialist     include active combat roles, operations in        Subsequently, CVRDE had taken
vehicles to meet the needs of the Services   dangerous or contaminated environments        up technology demonstrator project
and to build technological capabilities      (mine fields and nuclear-biological–          ‘Conversion of BMP into Tele-operated
in critical areas including test and         chemical-contaminated areas), disposal        and Autonomous vehicle’, later named as
evaluation of combat systems’. This issue    of UneXploded Ordnances (UXO) and             Mission Unmanned Tracked (MUNTRA).
of Technology Focus gives an overview of     Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs),          A host of technologies like drive-by-
the sustained efforts taken by CVRDE in      utility and logistic support roles, etc.      wire, tele-operation, perception, robotic
the design, development, implementation                                                    manipulators, autonomous navigation
and validation of UGVs and related               UGVs are increasingly being deployed      system (in association with CAIR), multi
technologies/systems during the period       globally for military and civil applications  sensor data fusion, tele-operation of
2007 to 2017. This issue also outlines a     to enhance battlefield effectiveness,         surveillance, NBC reconnaissance and
road map for future developments.            improve human safety and work as force        mine detection payloads, open source
                                             multipliers. A recent US market report        software, power management, etc. were
Unmanned Ground                              on Military Unmanned Ground Vehicles          developed during this period. In addition,
      Vehicles                               2015-2025 predicts a very high potential      CVRDE was also one of the four labs
                                             for UGVs especially for Intelligence,         actively involved in the development of
    A glance through the history of armed    Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR),        a high speed UGV as an Indo-Singapore
conflicts through the ages will reveal that  Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and         international collaboration project, tasked
fast adaptation and quick deployment of      logistics domains. DRDO recognised the        with development of vehicle actuation
cutting edge technologies have always        potential of the UGV during early 1990s       module for a Honda-CRV vehicle for both
                                             and a few laboratories started developing     Phase I and Phase II of the collaboration.
                                             UGVs aligned with their domain
                                                                                               In addition, CVRDE is carrying out a
                                                                                           mission mode project for the conversion

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