DoD Announces Robotics Manufacturing Institute Award Recipient
Manufacturing is vital to national security in many ways and particularly as a source of critical technology for the warfighter, Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said today.
In the Pentagon Hall of Heroes, Kendall announced the Defense Department’s award of its eighth department-led institute and the 14th Manufacturing USA institute to American Robotics, Inc., of Pittsburgh.
“Our adversaries and potential adversaries are designing weapons systems aimed directly at defeating U.S. capabilities,” Kendall said, “particularly power-projection capabilities.”
To maintain the United States’ technical superiority, he added, “The department requires investments and advanced [technologies] to shape the capabilities of innovation … and timely acquisition of our nation’s defense systems for tomorrow. … It’s for that reason the Manufacturing USA Program has been so important to DoD.”
Robotics are increasingly necessary to achieve the level of precision required for defense and other industrial manufacturing needs, but the capital cost and complexity of its use often limits small to mid-size manufacturers from using the technology, DoD officials said.
The Advanced Robotics Manufacturing (ARM) institute’s mission is to create and deploy robotic technology by integrating the diverse collection of industry practices and institutional knowledge across many disciplines, the officials said. Such disciplines include sensor technologies, end-effector development, software and artificial intelligence, materials science, human and machine behavior modeling, and quality assurance to realize the promises of a robust manufacturing innovation ecosystem.
Technologies ripe for significant evolution within the ARM institute include collaborative robotics, robot control – such as learning, adaptation, and repurposing – in addition to dexterous manipulation, autonomous navigation and mobility, perception and sensing, and testing, verification and validation, officials said.
The new institute will operate on agreed-upon financial support of about $80 million in federal funding and $173 million from cost-sharing. ARM team is comprised of 123 industry partners, 40 academic institutions and 64 non-profit and government entities, Kendall said.
“All of these team members will collaborate to meet future needs,” he said, calling the consortium a true “team effort.”
Militarily, robotics will be used across DoD for entirely new modes of the human-robot teams to give U.S. warfighters a second-to-none fighting capability and protection on all battlefields and various forms of manned and unmanned teams, Kendall said. “[Such teams will] better enable robots and warfighters to safely and decisively conduct their missions.”
Robotics technology can address present and future challenges on multiple DoD platforms, Kendall said.
Looking around the Hall of Heroes, which bears the names of Medal of Honor recipients from America’s first war to present conflicts, Kendall said, “many of those Medals of Honor were awarded posthumously. We are very interested in robotics so we don’t have to award so many Medals of Honor,” he said.
The institute award to ARM, Kendall said, is about getting the most-efficient means of robotics manufacturing to the warfighter.
“At the end of the day, it’s all going to be about having fewer names on these walls so our people don’t have to sacrifice themselves, and our people in uniform will have a significant advantage on the battlefield,” he said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)