Highly mobile unmanned vehicles
Friday, April 08, 2005
Having developed some of the most advanced Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), the Israeli defense industry has turned to the ground. Two companies are currently developing highly mobile unmanned vehicles that can perform armed patrols around the barrier being built between Israel and the territories. Replacing human patrol guards, these vehicles will cut security costs and save lives.
Since 9/11 many sensitive facilities in the United States and elsewhere have boosted their security, but employing large numbers of security personnel is costly and not always effective, especially in very large and isolated facilities. For this purpose specifically, two Israeli security companies are developing the next generation of patrol vehicles. The Guardium and the Avidor-2004 are two specially adapted vehicles based on the Tomcar chassis. The Tomcar is an all-terrain vehicle developed in Israel by Gili Cohen which recently won a high profile European prize for design. The original Tomcar is a small vehicle which can accommodate two passengers and their equipment, surpassing off-road obstacles and maintaining very high mobility. Both Elbit Systems and the Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) have decided to use the high performance Tomcar as the basis for their next generation autonomous patrol vehicles.
The Guardium, developed by the IAI as a perimeter security system, addresses the critical period between the initial warning of perimeter intrusion and response. Operating in the perimeter fence area, the system deploys its Unmanned Ground Security Vehicle (USV) to continuously patrol, survey, and report on the status of the perimeter area and react immediately to isolate, contain and communicate with, and control intruders until backup arrives. Each high-speed USV can be equipped with sensors to navigate varied terrain, cameras that relay field data, voice communication capabilities, and other operational means such as weapons, both lethal and non-lethal.
The brain of the Guardium system is the C4I (command, control, communication, computer, and intelligence) center, which monitors and controls the USV activity and continuously processes data. As appropriate, the C4I commander can override automatic vehicle operation and assume direct control. This security solution significantly improves incident response times, minimizes the manpower required for continuous monitoring, and reduces security personnel exposure to physical danger.
The Guardium vehicle is a highly modified version of the Tomcar with external armor and sophisticated satellite navigation system. The Elbit Systems Avidor-2004 bears more physical resemblance to the original Tomcar (although the final version may be modified), but has been designed to operate autonomously just like the Guardium vehicle. The Avidor-2004 has another advantage on its side, experience. In 2004 Elbit Systems, in collaboration with the American organization SciAutonics, used the Avidor-2004 in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) "Grand Challenge." The Grand Challenge 2004 was a 142-mile course commencing in Barstow, California and finishing in Primm, Nevada. Although the Avidor-2004 did not complete the course (nor did any of the other fifteen vehicles that participated), it did arrive second in the overall score and accumulated valuable field experience in some of the harshest conditions in the world.
Both vehicles are currently in advanced stages of development and will soon be tested by the Israeli Defense Ministry for their ability to patrol and guard the new fence being built between Israel and the Palestinian territories.
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