The Army Futures Command now officially has a shoulder sleeve insignia and distinctive unit insignia that its soldiers will wear while they work toward modernizing the Army.
With a golden anvil as its main symbol, the shoulder patch and unit insignia are a nod to former Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal coat of arms that used a blue-colored anvil.
The command’s motto “Forge the Future” is also displayed below the anvil on the unit insignia, while both the patch and unit insignia have black and white stripes stretching outward from the anvil.
“Symbols mean things just like words do,” said Robert Mages, the command’s acting historian. “It’s a reminder to the soldiers that wear the patch of the mission that they’ve been assigned and of the responsibilities that come with that mission.”
Since last year, the four-star command has been at the heart of the most significant Army reorganization effort since 1973.
In July 2018, senior leaders picked Austin, Texas, for the AFC headquarters. Cross-Functional Teams were also stood up within the command to tackle the Army’s six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.
Shoulder sleeve insignia for Army Futures Command. With a golden anvil as its main symbol, the shoulder patch and distinctive unit insignia are a nod to former Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal coat of arms that used a blue-colored anvil.
(Photo by John Martinez)
The patch and unit insignia represent the command’s most recent move toward full operational capability, which is expected in 2019.
Andrew Wilson, a heraldic artist at The Institute of Heraldry at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, worked with command leadership since December 2017 to finalize the designs.
“This is something that is supposed to stand the test of time and just to play a part in it, it’s an honor,” he said.
The main piece — the anvil — is meant to represent fortitude, determination and perseverance. The black, white, and gold resemble the colors of the U.S. Army.
Wilson said he got the idea for the anvil during a design meeting that mentioned the command’s new motto — Forge the Future.
Wilson, who once took a blacksmithing course in college, was immediately reminded of reshaping metals on an anvil.
“Taking away from the meeting, I tried to come up with something that would play off of that,” he said. “The first thing that popped in my head with ‘forge’ was blacksmithing and one of the key features of that is an anvil.”
Once he spoke of his idea, Charles Mugno, the institute’s director, then advised him to look at the anvil used in Eisenhower’s coat of arms.
The coat of arms granted to Eisenhower upon his incorporation as a knight of the Order of the Elephant in 1950.
“And from there the spark of creativity just took off,” Wilson said.
The Institute of Heraldry was also involved in the organizational identity of the Security Forces Assistance Brigades, one of which just completed its first deployment to Afghanistan.
“Whenever you have a new Army unit, you do end up doing a heraldic package of shoulder sleeve insignia, distinctive unit insignia and organizational colors,” Mugno said.
Heraldic conventions, he added, is a time-honored process that dates back to the 12th century.
With a staff of about 20 personnel, the institute also helps create the identity of other federal government agencies. Most notably is the presidential seal and coat of arms.
“We have a very unique mission,” Mugno said. “We all share a sense of honor and purpose in being able to design national symbolism for the entire federal government.”
Until the new patch was created, soldiers in Army Futures Command wore a variety of patches on their sleeves. Those assigned to ARCIC, for instance, wore the Army Training and Doctrine Command patch and those in research laboratories had the Army Materiel Command patch.
Now, the golden anvil has forged them all together.
“It’s a symbol of unity — unity of effort, unity of command,” said Mages, the historian. “We no longer report to separate four-star commanders. We now report to one commander whose sole focus is the modernization of our Army.”
In this era of massive budget blockbusters and even bigger “shared universe” movie franchises, it’s safe to say that we’re not always looking for realism at the cinema. While films are capable of conveying lots of different sorts of messages, the common thread that binds them is entertainment, and as such, reality often falls to the wayside in favor of plot convenience, storytelling, or sometimes, just a lack of scientific understanding.
Movies that are “based on a true story” tend to bear little resemblance to the “true stories” they’re based on, movies about the military almost invariably fail to capture the culture or even the vernacular of American troops, and the Fast and Furious franchise has a physics all its own… but some movies do a good job of establishing that the rules of their cinematic universes are similar to our own, only to offer up weapons that, at best, don’t make sense, and at worst, would leave their user reduced to little more than a puddle of goo.
Some of these nonsensical weapons play small roles in the movies they inhabit, while others, like these, have become cultural touchstones; serving as symbols of the fictional universes they inhabit and the fandoms they inspire. These weapons are cool, dynamic, exciting… and would totally get you killed in a real fight.
DS9 VS. The Klingons – Hoards of angry Klingons invade the station
While the Klingons had already been around for some time before “Star Trek: The Next Generation” introduced the Bat’leth, the unique double-sided sword quickly became visually synonymous with the Empire of warrior aliens. There’s just one problem: melee weapons make no sense in a galaxy full of handheld phasers and disruptors, and even if they did — the Bat’leth is one useless melee weapon.
While most bladed weapons offer the user an increase in reach, the Bat’leth’s curved shape makes it more awkward for extended one-handed strikes like a bow or staff might allow, and while held in the traditional two-handed way, it offers little more than a solid defense against other melee weapons. Perhaps this is why the mighty Klingons always find themselves bested in hand to hand combat by humans, Bajorans, and anybody else the plot finds convenient, despite their fierce reputations.
Jedi vs Trade Federation Droids – The Phantom Menace [1080p HD]
This one is sure to ruffle feathers, as the Star Wars fandom has devoted a great deal of time and energy to explaining away how these energy weapons must really work. However, as of Disney’s purchase of the franchise, canonical sources have been slashed, and we’re left once again with lightsabers that work without the plot-hole filler that was once allotted.
What we’re left with are extremely hot energy weapons that, as others have pointed out, shouldn’t work because the beams have endpoints, but assuming they did — anything that could burn so easily through feet of steel as depicted in the films would also melt the meat off of your hands as you held it. It would take so much heat to do what lightsabers are depicted as doing, it wouldn’t be safe to be in the same room as one, let alone to start swinging it like a baseball bat.
The Iron Man suit has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and with good reason. The MCU as we know it was born with the first Iron Man movie and in many ways, Stark serves as the Skywalker of the series… but that doesn’t change the fact that the suit that grants him his powers would actually be his undoing.
While the Iron Man armor may protect Tony from impacts and penetration, it can’t stop inertia. Iron Man is regularly shown taking hard, nearly instant turns at jet-fighter like speeds and even hitting the ground at similar velocities (whether intentionally or otherwise). Even if the armor offered protection from impact, the inertia of those movements would turn Tony Stark into chunky stew.
In reality, the first Iron Man movie likely would have ended with Pepper Potts prying the suit open only to let what was left of the titular hero pour out… which is why maybe it’s not always good to be completely realistic with one’s movie weapons.
The leaders of Turkey, Russia, France, and Germany have reiterated calls for a UN-backed political process to end the war in Syria that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a summit in Istanbul on Oct. 27, 2018, that “the meeting demonstrated there is common determination to solve the problem.
“A joint solution can be achieved, not through military means, but only through political effort under the UN aegis,” she added.
Along with Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and French President Emmanuel Macron gathered for the talks in search of an end to the seven-year civil war in the Middle East country.
Following the summit, the four leaders issued a statement calling for the convening of a committee by the end of 2018 to work on constitutional reform as a prelude to free and fair elections in Syria.
“We need transparent elections, that will be held under supervision of international observers. Refugees should take part in this process as well,” Merkel said.
Macron said a “constitutional committee needs to be established and should hold its first meeting by the end of 2018. This is what we all want.”
“Creating it will become a part of the political settlement in Syria,” Macron said.
The summit’s final communique also supported efforts to facilitate the “safe and voluntary” return of refugees to their Syrian homes.
The final statement rejected “separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries.”
Many obstacles to a peace agreement remain. They include divided opinions about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran.
Western countries, meanwhile, condemn Assad for what they call indiscriminate attacks on civilians and Turkey has been helping insurgents trying to remove him from power.
Putin told a news conference that a settlement in Syria cannot be reached without consultations that include Syria and “our Iranian partners,” describing them as “a guarantor country of the peace process, the cease-fire, and the establishment of demilitarized zones.”
Asked about the possibilities of a second summit of the four countries, Putin said the countries have “not negotiated this yet, but everything is possible.”
At the onset of World War I, the warring powers needed all the help they could get on both land and sea. So, when the British Empire lost two of her ships to mines and torpedoes, they did the only logical thing they could think of: welded the remaining pieces together and sent the ship back into the war.
The World War I Naval equivalent of Motrin and clean socks. (HMS Nubian in Chatham Drydock after being torpedoed in 1916)
The HMS Nubian and the HMS Zulu were both Tribal-class destroyers in the service of the Royal Navy. They were also both launched in 1909. Since their range was much too short to go into the open ocean, they were used primarily for home defense, hunting submarines, and protecting England from any seaborne threats. Unfortunately, they both also met similar fates at the hands of the Kaiser’s navy.
Nubian was part of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla, charged with defending England’s east coast. By the outbreak of World War I, she was in the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla hunting German U-boats and hitting German defenses on the coast of Belgium. She was torpedoed by one such submarine during the 1916 Battle of the Dover Straits. None of her crew were killed until the ship ran aground and broke apart while being towed back to port. The bow of Nubian was completely torn off, and a dozen men were killed.
HMS Zulu lost its stern after hitting a German mine.
HMS Zulu was in the same class as the Nubian. The two ships were even part of the same destroyer flotilla before the war started. By the time World War I did kick off, Zulu was in the 6th Destroyer Flotilla operating outside of Dover, where she joined the Dover Patrol, looking for German submarines to prevent them from accessing the Atlantic through the English Channel. Unfortunately for the Zulu, she struck a mine laid by a German sub. The explosion killed three sailors and ripped off the ship’s stern.
A French destroyer helped it limp back to the port of Calais, where it was towed back to England. Once in England, the Zulu and the Nubian would make history: they would become the HMS Zubian.
The Zubian, with no real difference in length, displacement, or firepower.
The portmanteau of the two ships’ names is as accurate as it is appropriate. The Nubian, having lost her bow and the Zulu, having lost her stern, could not simply be written off as a loss during what was then considered “the War to End All Wars.” The two sister ships were so similar that they could exchange parts or whole pieces – and that’s exactly what happened. Instead of scrapping one or the other, the two parts were just welded together. The resulting ship, the Zubian, set sail for vengeance almost immediately.
In the war’s final two years, Zubian saw service in the 6th Flotilla in the Dover Straits throughout the war. In February 1918, she saw a U-boat attempt to surface with its antenna up. Zubian moved to ram the German U-boat, but it submerged before the British could hit her. Zubian dropped depth charge after depth charge on the sub until oil and metal floated to the surface, revenge for the hurt German U-boats put on her previous two ships (and the crews manning them).
America’s favorite Revolutionary War hero and first president had a little wish to, uh, checks notes, burn the city of New York to the ground and watch the flames dance in the tear-filled eyes of his enemies. Wait, can that be right?
Yup. Gen. George Washington himself wanted to burn one of America’s most populous and wealthy cities to the mud. But it wasn’t because he wanted the future city that would be named after him to have no rival in the Big Apple, it was actually a decent military strategy at the time (but would be a war crime now).
The proposed destruction was set for 1776 when Washington felt he could not hold the city. The Patriots had predicted that the British military, relying as it did on roads and ships, would sail down the Hudson and split the colonies. Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island were all east of the river and would be isolated.
And, controlling New York Harbor would give the British a perfect staging ground for joint army-navy operations against New Jersey and the rebel capital in Philadelphia.
The Battle of Long Island started Aug. 27, 1776, and was a catastrophe for America, and it nearly ended the war. Washington’s forces were outflanked multiple times, and it took a series of careful withdrawals for Washington to keep his men together and organized. He ended the main maneuvers with his back to the East River and the British arrayed in front of him in strength.
The fog finally cleared and the British found themselves facing an empty battlefield. The Continental Army had escaped.
But New York was now open to the British, and they took it. Washington had asked for permission to burn it to prevent Britain from using it as “warm and comfortable barracks” in the winter of 1776-77, but it was too late. The Redcoats marched in.
Luckily for Washington, New York burned anyway. On the night of Sept. 19, a fire began in Harlem that would consume about a quarter of the city before it was successfully extinguished. It wasn’t as extensive as Washington may have wished, but it was more than enough to piss off the Brits.
The British suspected that Patriot agents were behind the fire. It wasn’t yet illegal to burn a civilian city to prevent its occupation by enemy forces, but it was still frowned upon. And the Redcoats wanted their justice.
British forces captured 100 suspects and hanged one, Nathaniel Hale, as a spy. It would turn out that Hale really was a spy for Washington, so they weren’t too far off the mark.
It can’t be known for sure that the city was burned by Washington’s agents or because of his wishes, but it did serve his purposes.
But, it didn’t stop the British advance. Washington’s men suffered a series of smaller defeats and lost two key forts in New York. But this series of failures is what led Washington to set out on Christmas 1776 to attack the Hessians at the battle of Trenton, salvaging Patriot morale right before thousands of enlistments expired.
The United States Navy commissioned the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) this past weekend. The ship is noted for many advanced technologies on board, but what is also notable is what the ship doesn’t have.
According to a Navy Times report, though the Ford has a compliment of America’s most advanced fighters, it’s missing urinals in the men’s head.
The Navy claimed that the elimination of the urinals increase flexibility when it comes to shifting berthing arrangements for the crew on board the $13 billion vessel. However, there are some drawbacks to this new arrangement, according to experts.
Chuck Kaufman, president of the Public Restroom Company, is among those critical of the design change. The Public Restroom Company specializes in designing public restrooms that have been used in parks, rest areas, playgrounds – just about anywhere.
“[A toilet is] by far a less clean environment than a urinal. By far,” Kaufman told the Navy Times, citing the fact that men tend to miss normal toilets more often than they miss urinals.
“What is a problem is [with a water closet] you have a very big target and we can’t aim very quickly,” he added, noting that the only way to ensure men didn’t miss was to make them sit down. Furthermore, Kaufman explained, toilets take over twice the space of urinals. The Navy Times noted that about 18 percent of the Navy’s personnel are women.
The Gerald R. Ford replaced the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which was taken out of service in 2012.
A new study was recently released by the VA that monitored the effects of drinking alcohol heavily on a daily basis. In case you weren’t yet aware, regularly binge drinking is bad for you.
So, instead of joining in with the rest of society and bashing the VA for studying the painfully obvious, I’m actually going to take their side. Tracking. Sure, it’s still a gigantic waste of time and money, but it’s clever as f*ck if you think about it. Imagine being a doctor on that study. You’ve got nothing to do for a few months but drink free booze, you’re still getting paid a doctor’s salary, and the answer is clear as day well before you’re done? F*ck yeah! Sign my ass up!
Shout-out to J.D. Simkins at the Military Times for making an actually funny, sarcastic rebuttal to this gigantic waste of time and money.
Black Rifle Coffee Company’s Richard Ryan, who you may know from the popular YouTube channel FullMag, got the chance to fulfill a dream he’s had for over a decade: mounting an M61 Vulcan cannon to the top of a Toyota Prius.
Everyone knows what a Prius is, but the uninitiated may not be familiar with the beastly, Gatling-style M61 Vulcan. The Federation of American Scientists defines the M61 Vulcan as “a hydraulically driven, 6 barreled, rotary action, air cooled, electrically fired weapon, with selectable rates of fire of either 4000 or 6000 rounds per minute.” With that kind of incredible firepower, this angel of death has graced a variety of U.S. jet fighters since the 1950s, as well as the AC-130 gunship — it even felled 39 Soviet-made MiG’s during the Vietnam War.
To pull off this ridiculously awesome feat, Ryan partnered with companies like Hamilton Sons, known for their involvement in restorations of large weapons and historical recreations, and Battlefield Vegas, which acquires rare equipment for the everyday bro or broette to use. Between Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) licenses and the actual manufacturing and acquiring of weapons, the logistics for a video of this scale is neither inexpensive nor easy, so great sponsors were key.
With all that hard work in the rear view, Ryan took some time to explain to Coffee, or Die Magazine exactly how his grand plan came to fruition:
Step 1: Watch “Predator” a lot as a kid and develop a deep appreciation for Jesse Ventura’s Old Painless minigun; fire an even bigger minigun as an adult and find it still isn’t satisfying enough.
Predator (1987) – Old Painless Is Waiting Scene (1/5) | Movieclips
Step 2: Get tricked by clickbait YouTube videos that claim to have close-up or slo-mo footage of an M61 Vulcan but don’t. Vow to make your own video someday because fuck those posers!
Step 3: Drink a cup of strong coffee and devise an absurd plan — like mounting a Vulcan to a milquetoast hybrid vehicle instead of a fighter jet or tank (boring!). “I wanted that counterculture of the Prius. Mounting it to one of those would be epic.”
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
Step 4: Wait. Drink coffee. Wait some more. For eons. Due to the National Firearms Act, machine guns manufactured before 1986 are extraordinarily expensive, and something as rare as a Vulcan cannon is essentially priceless.
Step 5: Six years later, become friends with awesome people, the kind of people who can get their hands on a Vulcan stripped off a demilitarized F-16. Thanks, Battlefield Vegas!
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
Step 6: Bring all the pieces together to modify the gun and the car. Replace the gun’s hydraulic-fed system with an electrical-fed system, as well as electrical primers and new motors. At the same time, strip the entire interior of the car to handle the amount of kinetic energy put out by the weapon: new floor pan, roll cage, and mounting system for the roof, accidentally making the first Prius that someone might actually call “bad ass” in the process.
Step 7: Make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the job.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
Step 8: Get a quote from General Dynamics for the ammunition. It costs per round, meaning the gun will blow through 0,000 for one minute of sustained fire. Have small heart attack. Drink more coffee.
Step 9: Test everything. Go through six months of meticulous steps, not knowing if everything is going to work. “We were tiptoeing through, shooting five rounds here, three rounds there.”
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
Step 10: Completely blow out the windshield due to overpressure. #mybad
Step 11: “Borrow” about 15 feet of leftover gym flooring from Mat Best’s new gym to roll up and put under the gun so you don’t blow out the windshield again. “I don’t want to Mad Max the vehicle; I want it to be street legal because I think that’s funnier.”
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
Step 11.5: Take time to think about how awesome it is that it’s even possible for a Vulcan-mounted Prius to be street legal.
Step 12: Wait for monsoon season so that you don’t contribute to any forest fires.
Step 13: Look the happiest anyone has ever looked driving a Prius.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
Step 14: Finally achieve your dream of showing those YouTube weaponry rickrollers that anything can be done with a good cup of coffee and a can-do attitude.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
Step 15: Share. Let everyone who worked on the project have a turn to shoot because you’re a generous gun god — but also because part of you feels safer standing at a distance.
A rocket narrowly missed the US Embassy compound in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sept. 11, 2019, during the first few minutes of the 18th anniversary of 9/11.
Loudspeakers inside the office broadcast a warning that “an explosion caused by a rocket has occurred on compound,” The Associated Press reported.
No one was injured, the nearby NATO mission told the AP.
A US State Department official told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: “We can confirm there was an explosion near the US Embassy in Kabul. US mission personnel were not directly impacted by this explosion.”
Nosrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of the Interior, told Gulf News that the rocket hit a wall at the defense ministry and that no one was hurt.
The news came amid heightened tensions between the US and the Taliban, the insurgent group that rules over large swathes of Afghanistan.
US and Taliban officials were due to meet at Camp David in Maryland on Sept. 8, 2019, to discuss a peace process and an end to the US military presence in Afghanistan, but President Donald Trump abruptly canceled the talks the day before.
About 14,000 US troops remain in the country, a situation that has angered Trump. Last month, the US and the Taliban reached a provisional agreement to remove several thousand troops.
If you ever watched “The Jetsons,” an animated sitcom (1963-1964) about a family living in fictional Orbit City in the 2060s, you likely remember the iconic depiction of a futuristic utopia complete with flying cars and robotic contraptions to take care of many human needs. Robots, such as sass-talking housekeeper Rosie, could move through that world and perform tasks ranging from the mundane to the highly complex, all with human-like ease.
In the real world, however, robotic technology has not matured so swiftly.
What will it take to endow current robots with these futuristic capabilities? One place to look for inspiration is in human behavior and development. From birth, each of us has been performing a variety of tasks over and over and getting better each time. Intuitively, we know that practice, practice, and more practice is the only way to become better at something.
We often say we are developing a “muscle memory” of the task, and this is correct in many ways. Indeed, we are slowly developing a model of how the world operates and how we must move to influence the world. When we are good at a task—that is, when our mental model well captures what actually happens—we say the task has become second nature.
‘WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS A MAN’
Let’s consider for a moment several amazing tasks performed by humans just for recreational purposes. Baseball players catch, throw, and hit a ball that can be moving faster than 100 miles per hour, using an elegant fusion of visual perception, tactile sensing, and motor control. Responding to a small target at this speed requires that the muscles react, at least to some degree, before the conscious mind fully processes visually what has happened.
The most skilled players of the game typically have the best mental models of how to pitch, hit, and catch. A mental model in this case contains all the prior knowledge and experience a player has about how to move his or her body to play the game, particularly for the position.
The execution of an assumed mental model is called “feed forward control.” A mental model that is incorrect or incomplete, such as one used by an inexperienced player, will reduce accuracy and repeatability and require more time to complete a task.
We can assume that even professional baseball players would need significant time to adjust if they were magically transported to play on the moon, where gravity is much weaker and air resistance is nonexistent. Similarly, another instance of incorrect models can be observed in the clumsy and uncoordinated movements of quickly growing children; their mental models of how to relate to the world must constantly change and adapt because they are changing.
Nevertheless, humans are quite resilient to change and, with practice, they can adapt to perform well in new situations.
A major focus of much current research going on now at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is moving toward creating a robot like Rosie, capable of learning and executing tasks with the best precision and speed possible, given what we know about our own abilities.
NOT QUITE ‘INFINITE IN FACULTY’
In general, we can say that Rosie-like robot performance is possible given sufficient advances in the areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling interactions with the world.
Robots “perceive” the world around them using myriad integrated sensors. These sensors include laser range scanners and acoustic ranging, which provide the distance from the robot to obstacles; cameras that permit the robot to see the world, similar to our own eyes; inertial measurement sensing that includes rate gyroscopes, which sense the rate of change of the orientation of the robotic device; and accelerometers, which sense acceleration and gravity, giving the robot an “inner ear” of sorts.
All these methods of sensing the world provide different types of information about the robot’s motion or location in the environment.
Sensor information is provided to the algorithms responsible for estimating self-motion and interaction with the world. Robots can be programmed with their own versions of mental models, complete with mechanisms for learning and adaptation that help encode knowledge about themselves and the environment in which they operate. Rather than “mental models,” we call these “world models.”
‘IN FORM AND MOVING HOW EXPRESS AND ADMIRABLE,’ SORT OF
Consider a robot acting while assuming a model of its own motion in the world. If the behavior the robot actually experiences deviates significantly from the behavior the robot expects, the discrepancy will lead to poor performance: a “wobbly” robot that is slow and confused, not unlike a human after too many alcoholic beverages. If the actual motion is closer to the anticipated model, the robot can be very quick and accurate with less burden on the sensing aspect to correct for erroneous modeling.
Of course, the environment itself greatly affects how the robot moves through the world. While gravity can fortunately be assumed constant on Earth, other conditions can change how a robot might interact with the environment.
For instance, a robot traveling through mud would have a much different experience than one moving on asphalt. The best modeling would be designed to change depending on the environment. We know there are many models to be learned and applied, and the real issue is knowing which model to apply for a given situation.
Robotics today are developed in laboratory environments with little exposure to the variability of the world outside the lab, which can cause a robot’s ability to perceive and react to fail in the unstructured outdoors. Limited environmental exposure during model learning and subsequent poor adaptation or performance is said to be the result of “over-fitting,” or using a model created from a small subset of experiences to maneuver according to a much broader set of experiences.
At ARL, we are researching specific advances to address these areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling robotic interaction with the world, with the understanding that doing so will enable great enhancements in the operational speed of autonomous vehicles.
Specifically, we are working on knowing when and under what conditions different methods of sensing work well or may not work well. Given this knowledge, we can balance how these sensors are combined to aid the robot’s motion estimation.
A much faster estimate is available as well through development of techniques to automatically estimate accurate models of the world and of robot self-motion. With the learned and applied models, the robot can act and plan on a much quicker timescale than what might be possible with only direct sensor measurements.
Finally, we know that these models of motion should change depending on which of the many diverse environmental conditions the robot finds itself in. To further enhance robot reliability in a more general sense, we are working on how to best model the world such that a collection of knowledge can be leveraged to help select an appropriate model of robot motion for the current conditions.
If we can master these capabilities, then Rosie can be ready for operation, lacking only her signature attitude.
DR. JOSEPH CONROY is an electronics engineer in ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He holds a doctorate, an M.S. and a B.S., all in aerospace engineering and all from the University of Maryland, College Park.
MR. EARL JARED SHAMWELL is a systems engineer with General Technical Services LLC, providing contract support to ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He is working on his doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Maryland, College Park, and holds a B.A. in economics and philosophy from Columbia University.
This article will be published in the January – March 2017 issue of Army ALT Magazine.
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The commanding officer and the executive officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain were relieved of duty and reassigned to different posts for “loss of confidence,” according to a US Navy statement on October 11.
Commanding officer Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez and executive officer Cmdr. Jessie Sanchez came under scrutiny after the McCain’s collision with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters in August. Ten sailors died and five were injured.
The collision tore a hole in the destroyer’s left rear hull, where several sailors were inside sealed compartments on the vessel, the Associated Press reported at the time.
Although the investigation is ongoing, the Navy called the collision preventable and said “the commanding officer exercised poor judgment, and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the ship’s training program.” The Navy’s strict adherence to customs and traditions dictate that commanders be relieved of duty when superiors lose confidence in their leadership.
The McCain incident followed another collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a commercial container ship in June, which killed seven sailors. The Fitzgerald’s executive officer and senior enlisted sailor were also dismissed in that case.
US Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the three-star commander of the US 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, whose command oversaw the USS McCain and Fitzgerald, was also relieved of duty in August following the series of deadly ship collisions. Four accidents involving ships have occurred in the western Pacific since February, according to The New York Times.
The Army has plans to purchase 61 Black Hornet III small unmanned aerial systems, or SUASs, which are designed to provide reconnaissance support at squad level.
By the third quarter of 2019, 57 of those systems will be fielded to a yet-unidentified Infantry brigade combat team, said Capt. WaiWah Ellison, the assistant program manager for Soldier Borne Sensors, part of Program Executive Office Soldier.
Ellison spoke during the “Close Combat Lethality Tech Day” demonstration on May 24, 2018, at the Pentagon.
The Black Hornet III can fly a distance of up to two kilometers and remain aloft for 25 minutes, she said.
The system takes color photographs and videos and can do so simultaneously, she noted. The system is also equipped with thermal imaging, which gives it night vision capability.
Most importantly, the Black Hornet III weighs less than two ounces. With soldiers carrying so much gear, reducing their load is a top priority for everything PEO soldier produces. Hauling around too much weight results in fatigue and reduces the ability of soldiers to maneuver on the battlefield when dismounted, Ellison explained.
The Black Hornet III comes with a docking station, where the batteries are charged, and with a monitor, which is about the size of a tablet computer, she said. The SUAS, docking station and monitor have a combined weight of less than three pounds. While the Black Hornet III is aloft, another battery can be charged and ready when it returns.
Wireless commands and data sent between the soldier and Black Hornet III are encrypted, Ellison said, to ensure the system is not susceptible to being hacked.
(photo by United Kingdom Ministry of Defense)
The Black Hornet III is not designed for long-term surveillance. Instead, it is designed to give soldiers a quick look at what’s ahead of them, over a hill, or on the other side of a building or wall, she explained.
After laboratory testing in early January 2018, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineer Center in Massachusetts, the Black Hornet III was put through its paces at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, beginning in late January. The “fly-off” gave soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, a chance to evaluate it in tactical conditions, she said.
It takes roughly 16 hours to train a soldier on how to pilot and maintain the Black Hornet III, she said, adding that operating it is fairly intuitive.
To fly it, you hold it in your hand and rotate it 90 degrees one way then 90 degrees the other way, Ellison explained. That wakes it up and gets the rotor spinning. You also turn on the monitor and it acquires a GPS signal. The entire operation from turning everything on to flight is a bit over a minute.
During the fly-off, Ellison said soldier feedback was positive. Soldiers liked the system’s reliability, saying it went where they wanted it to go and did not lose control sequences that were transmitted to it.
Don Sheehan, Integrated Product Team Lead for Small Unmanned Aerial Systems at Naval Air Systems Command, said the Navy had observers at Fort A.P. Hill during testing, as Marines and Special Operations operators are interested in the capabilities of the Black Hornet III and are likely to purchase a number of them.
Sheehan noted that the Black Hornet III is so quiet that during testing, one soldier was unaware that one of them was flying a few feet behind him.
Besides being stealthy, the Black Hornet III in its grey paint, is practically invisible in the forest or jungles and even if seen, could easily be mistaken for a small bird or large insect, he said.
Ellison noted that Black Hornet III is by no means the only model of SUAS that the Army is interested in.
More testing of the Black Hornet III and other types of SUAS from different vendors will take place in October 2018, at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, by soldiers from 7th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, she said.
There will be a number of industry days coming up where vendors can tout their own SUAS prototypes. She encouraged interested vendors to visit FedBizOpps.gov for more information on industry opportunities.