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Unmanned systems have long found their place in the air in military operations - including in the Bundeswehr. Land-based unmanned systems are now increasingly being demanded, be it for unmanned reconnaissance, supporting infantry troops in transporting materials or for the partially unmanned convoy on the road.

Zivile companies such as Tesla, Daimler or VW as well as new players such as Uber, Argo AI or Waymo have been actively researching the field of vehicle automation for several years. The activities focus on public road traffic with its paved roads. These developments can only be transferred to military applications to a limited extent, since vehicles in the military context are often used in rough terrain without a fixed infrastructure. Strong vibrations and environmental influences such as mud, dust and precipitation make automated navigation more difficult. In addition, in military applications the system must be able to navigate without GPS and should, if possible, avoid active sensors in order to avoid detection.

Unmanned land systems in the Bundeswehr

Because of these high demands on automation in unstructured terrain, the military unmanned land systems currently in use in the Bundeswehr are remote-controlled. Such systems are primarily used for ordnance disposal (tEODor and Packbot EOD) or for mine detection (e.g. the German Route Clearance Package). In addition to these systems, the recently introduced system RABE (robots for reconnaissance, observation and reconnaissance in the local area) supports the soldiers in their reconnaissance. This remote-controlled and very light system (approx. 3.5 kg) provides imaging reconnaissance results in real time during dismounted operations.

The TULF vehicle navigates independently at ELROB 2018 in the "MULE" scenario (Photo: Bundeswehr / Paulick)

In the R&T department of the Bundeswehr, the possibilities of automation for material transport by truck are being investigated in various studies.

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