As threats evolve in complexity, it’s imperative to develop TTPs (tactics, techniques, procedures) to meet them. This is no less true in the deployment of unmanned systems. One approach growing in relevance is a tactic FLYMOTION has coined “Robotic Teaming.” As a concept, Robotic Teaming is simple: use two or more unmanned platforms in a coordinated effort to accomplish an objective. In practice, the tactic is a little more nuanced. In this article, we’ll cover the significance of Robotic Teaming, its nuances, and when to employ the tactic for ultimate success.
Why Robotic Teaming?
The common initial response to robotic teaming is, “why?” Why deploy multiple unmanned assets if one could fulfill the same purpose? It’s a valid question, considering the logistical and acquisition considerations required to use several platforms. The answer is simple: greater efficiency and effectiveness.
Unmanned systems — UAVs, UGVs, USVs — excel in their respective environments. But in the game of tradeoffs, it’s clear that each system type is vulnerable where the others are not. Let’s quickly compare UAVs and UGVs as an example.
Generally speaking, UAVs are fast and agile, capable of quickly covering large distances. However, due to obvious constraints, UAVs cannot complete manipulation tasks like lifting objects or opening doors. On the other hand, UGVs are perfectly suited for these tasks. EOD robots are a primary example of this capability, designed to lift, drag, or carry a variety of objects. But their greater power and dexterity, as you might imagine, often come at the cost of speed and agility.
Robotic teaming bypasses the tradeoff by using both systems to cover for each other’s shortcomings. This results in several advantages:
- A UAV and a UGV deploy at the scene of a suspicious package. The faster UAV clears each room and locates the package ahead of the slower robot. The operator can then guide the robot to the location in the most efficient way possible.
- In situations where precision is critical, two perspectives are better than one. A drone hovering over a robot (or perched on a vantage point nearby) provides an additional viewpoint to overcome the challenge of a skewed depth perception often faced by operators. In other words, the drone feed becomes a third-person POV, providing spatial context to facilitate a quick and secure “grab.”
- Deploying multiple assets at once means a responding team does not have to choose between covering a blind spot and investigating further. With a pair of UAVs, for example, a team can watch an exit while searching the rest of the building.
- In more practical terms, robotic teaming enables you to take advantage of sensors available on one platform and not on the other. For example, most UAVs include thermal sensors, a feature not as common on UGVs or USVs.
Other Robotic Teaming Combinations
As we have alluded to in the third point, Robotic Teaming is not exclusive to a UAV/UGV pair. A team can also use several UAVs at varying altitudes, angles, and positions to significantly increase awareness. During K9 operations, for example, one drone may be assigned to track the dog while a second drone remains over the handler. This way, officers have eyes on the suspect and personnel during what is often a dynamic scenario.
Multi-drone operations are easy with the right equipment. Teal offers a 4-Ship configuration for their Golden Eagle UAS that enables a pilot to simultaneously fly four aircraft with one controller. The result is an efficient force-multiplier solution with applications across a wide array of scenarios. You can learn more about the Golden Eagle here.
When should it be employed?
Of course, robotic teaming is not the perfect solution for every situation. There will be times when a quicker, more direct response is required. However, under most circumstances, this tactic increases the effectiveness of unmanned systems and minimizes the risks to responders. Here are two examples:
- Indoor operations: inherently dangerous due to obstructions, limited lighting, and other challenges like “fatal funnels.”
- Manipulation tasks: challenging depending on the robot’s capability, the operator’s skill level, and the operation’s complexity.
As a principle, robotic teaming encourages unmanned system operators to approach situations as direct tactical elements and reduce mission complexity by assigning distinct roles to each platform. Not only does this increase the overall effectiveness of unmanned systems, but it also reduces the exposure of personnel to hostile environments.
If you like to learn more about the elements of robotic teaming and potential applications, don’t hesitate to reach out! FLYMOTION’s Training Team has extensive experience employing this tactic and is willing to instruct, click here to contact them today.
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