A Robotic Deere Military Gator?

Posted on October 25, 2004
iRobot and John Deere have unveiled the Military R-Gator, calling it an intelligent unmanned ground vehicle that will use off-the-shelf technology. Using available systems, iRobot and John Deere plan to begin pilot production of the R-Gator by mid-2005, with full production slated to begin by 2006.

The Robotic Gator, or R-Gator as it is called, is built on the John Deere M-Gator military utility vehicle platform, and enhanced with iRobot military robotic controls and navigation and obstacle avoidance systems. The John Deere M-Gator is a drop-zone utility vehicle that deployed with the first units to see action in the opening days of Operation Enduring Freedom. Thousands of M-Gators have now been delivered to military units all over the world, Deere said, and are in use in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The R-Gator is designed to serve as an unmanned scout, "point man," perimeter guard, pack/ammo/supply carrier and more. Performing unmanned reconnaissance both on- and off-road, the R-Gator can relay real-time video, sounds and sensor readings from a potentially hostile area. The vehicle, the two companies said, could also automatically shuttle between rear supply points and forward operating positions, using either down-loaded GPS waypoints or waypoints collected dynamically during operations. Accommodating future payloads. R-Gator can also be upgraded to perform hazardous Nuclear/Biological/Chemical, ChemRad and Explosive Ordnance Disposal missions, Deere said.

Deere said the R-Gator retains full manual operation capability -- with a single switch, the operator can transition from autonomous or tele-operated modes to manual mode. When in autonomous mode, the operator can intervene and take control of the R-Gator at any time. The R-Gator features forward and aft scanning laser radar sensors which detect obstacles and guide the system during leader-follower operations. Forward and rear cameras provide a continuous video stream to the operator control unit.