Advanced remote-controlled vehicles have been utilized in a variety of military and police operations that would normally expose soldiers and police officers to potentially life-threatening situations. These take the form of bomb diffusing robots, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), as well as ground-based bomb detection devices utilized in urban conflict zones (Jean, 2011: 28-31). While such devices have prevented hundreds of deaths over the years, their main drawback lies in the complicated nature of the control mechanism used in their operation. As seen in the case of the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, conflict zones necessitate constant vigilance and action in the face of potential hidden threats. Having to utilize both hands and concentrate on operating a remote-controlled vehicle (RCV) is not only an inefficient method of bomb surveillance and detection but is also potentially suicidal given the possibility of sudden surprise attacks. A soldier in an urban conflict zone needs to be constantly aware of his/her surroundings with a hand to his weapon at all times. Bulky and complicated two-handed controls put not only a soldier’s life at risk but also his/her entire platoon as well due to the necessity of having to guard the soldier who is controlling the RCV which concentrates far too many people in a single area making them prime targets for a surprise RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) assault. It is based on this that a solution is necessary to accommodate both the necessity of enabling a soldier to be aware of his surroundings while at the same time simplifying the controls of the RCV to enable a quick shift between remote and weapon. By doing so, enables a soldier to rapidly respond to sudden changes in their combat environment which would safeguard his/her life.
Patent Summary US 8,019,223 B2 – Method and Device for Controlling a Remote Vehicle
RCV patent 8,019,223 B2 addresses the aforementioned concerns indicated in this paper through the use of a laser-guided control system that can be attached to a soldier’s helmet and standard-issue rifle in order to accommodate the necessity of rapid response within an urban conflict environment (Giving robots laser-guided vision, 2011: 38). The process works through the conjunction of a computer-controlled laser guidance system that fires a laser at a specific area and an RCV that detects the laser. The RCV utilizes the reflection of the laser from the direction that it is pointed at and heads towards that location. Commands can actually be sent to the RCV through a controlled laser burst that has a selection of commands embedded within the laser light. This comes in the form of a controlled set of light pulses that is undetectable by humans but can be seen and read by the RCV’s navigation panel. This enables the controller to guide the direction of the RCV, issue commands such as moving the camera in a particular direction or utilize the grasping tool of the RCV to ascertain whether a particular car has a bomb embedded within its undercarriage. All of this is done via an attached one-hand controller that can be placed on an M15 automatic rifle that is a standard issue within the U.S. military. The controller actually has a set of slider attachments that can easily conform to the front end of the rifle thus enabling a soldier to effectively grip the controls while firing the gun at the same time. All of the guidance mechanisms within the RCV are controlled via a preprogrammed selection of commands that are stored within the computer backpack of the soldier. All that needs to be done is for the soldier to control the vehicle via a selection of thumbwheels and buttons within the grip of the controller that is quite easy to both learn and control. As for visual confirmation of possible threats, the RCV comes equipped with an onboard camera that relays all the information seen to a mini LCD display screen that is attached to a soldier’s helmet and acts as a “lens” that is placed over his/her right or left eye. Through this particular method of display, a soldier is able to keep an eye on his surroundings while at the same time receiving a constant stream of visual data from the RCV.
General Specifics of the RCV Device
The RCV is primarily a lightweight device that weighs no more than a few pounds and functions entirely off battery power. Through the HUD (Heads Up Display) on the soldier’s helmet, several commands can be accessed which enable the user to use the RCV’s camera to zoom on particular objects, display tactical data on the field, as well as shows the speed of the RCV and the overall strength of the connection between the RCV and the controller. Do note that the mechanism utilized in sending commands (i.e. the attached laser pointer) is different from the method utilized in receiving the data from the RCV. All information gathered by the unit is relayed to a soldier via radio signals which are received through the antenna attachment on the computer which then relays the information to the HUD. As for why commands could not simply be sent to and from the RCV using primarily a radio controller, the problem lies in the fact that there are few generally functional methods wherein a radio controller can be attached to a gun with sufficient user-friendly simplicity. Not only that, this method of control, just like the radio receiver on the soldier’s backpack, needs to have an antenna in order to properly relay commands to the RCV. This of course poses a significant problem since it affects not only a soldier’s line of sight in the field but the cumbersome nature of the antenna would interfere with the overall usability of the gun. Furthermore, most radio-controlled devices often utilize two-handed controls to steer and maneuver an RCV, as such, this would defeat the entire purpose of the mechanism developed for this particular type of RCV if an antenna-based remote control was utilized.
Alternatives to RCV Technology
It must be noted that the technology behind RCV patent 8,019,223 B2 is used not only to detect if a car has a bomb but is also utilized as a means of scouting a variety of areas where insurgents may possibly be hidden. One of the possible alternatives to utilizing this particular form of technology which has been gaining ground within the U.S. military has been the use of UAVs (Unmanned Flying Vehicles) as a means of scouting various locations through the air (Çetınsoy et al., 2011: 733-741). The fundamental aspects of UAV technology are its adaptability to a wide assortment of environments and situations especially in cases where overt attention should not be drawn to the UAV. Unfortunately, the main problem with this particular type of long-range reconnaissance technology lies in the fact that though the amount of noise it produces can be minimized, its aerial profile can only be reduced to a certain extent especially in instances of prolonged aerial flight (a floating/flying object in the sky is obvious to most bystanders). To remedy this, various technological developments have been attempted to either reduce the UAV’s aerial profile by enabling it to more easily blend into the background or create a sufficiently small enough device that it would not be immediately noticeable by observers from the ground. While such attempts have proven to be successful they still lack the ability to sufficiently conceal a UAV in situations where prolonged observation is necessary. In cases where a UAV has to observe an area for a prolonged period of time, it is often necessary to land the aircraft to both conserve fuel/batter power and to reduce the likelihood of it being spotted. Unfortunately landing a UAV is easier said than done especially in cases where there are insufficient flat surfaces to choose from or the landscape is dotted by trees. Not only that, the controls used for a UAV are often quite bulky and cannot be reasonably adapted into the same means of one-hand functionality seen in the case of RCV patent 8,019,223 B2. It is based on this that UAV technology has primarily been utilized as a means of long-distance reconnaissance while RCV technology continues to dominate “combat situation” reconnaissance due to the overall degree of usability that technologies such as RCV patent 8,019,223 B2 bring to a combat situation.
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‘Giving robots laser-guided vision’ 2011, Machine Design, 83, 1, p. 38, Academic Search Premier,Web.
Jean, GV 2011, ‘New Robots Planned for Bomb Disposal Teams’, National Defense, 96, 692, pp. 28-31, International Security & Counter Terrorism Reference Center, Web.