Unmanned Ground Vehicles as the name suggests are vehicle systems operating across land without a human operand. These vehicles are commonly used in highly challenging situations where the deployment of personnel could potentially result in fatalities. UGVs make use of a range of sensors to probe the situation according to which the course of action is taken either autonomously or manually. The basic design for unmanned ground vehicles includes a platform, sensors, control systems, communication links, guidance interface as well as system integration features. Certain components vary with the application of choice across which the UGVs are deployed.
Market Trends for Unmanned Ground Vehicles
UGVs are used across a myriad of applications today. Across military applications, they are commonly used in hazardous situations for handling explosives, and as bomb disabling vehicles. They are also used for surveillance, reconnaissance, as well as target acquisition. The value chain for UGVs has been expanding into the commercial segment as well. Agriculture, mining, construction, package transportation, road safety, and peacekeeping operations are noted to be some of the elements of the value chain for UGVs.
Space applications are also noted to be one of the key application-based segments for Unmanned Ground Vehicles. For instance, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover consisted of two UGVs, i.e. Spirit and Opportunity. They were both used to perform operations outside the bounds of the originally designated parameters. The rovers, Opportunity, and Spirit landed on opposite sides of Mars in Jan 2004. The Spirit Rover was noted to have a nominal performance until it got trapped under sand in April 2009. The rover was recorded to have lasted 20 times longer compared to the expected longevity. Alternatively, Opportunity was operational for over 14 years beyond its estimated lifespan of 3 months.
India’s Efforts in the UGV market
The Indian army has been accelerating its efforts within the UGV segment to compete with international markets. The Indian army has been trying to increase UGV fleet capacity through the implementation of the UGV Experiment -2021 organized by the Army Design Bureau (ADB). It was an interaction that showcased the army’s strong intent to invest in the UGV vertical. Over two dozen firms showcased roughly 35 UGVs of varying sizes and capabilities. The interactive session allowed the personnel to gauge their sustainability and effectiveness across military applications. The Indian army was stated to require a UGV that could potentially carry roughly 250-500 Kg for an operational duration of 12 hours. As per the army’s requirement, the robotic arm should potentially have the capability of lifting a minimum weight of 5Kgs. This criterion caters to applications that involve the transportation/ setting-up and disarming of explosives. In Late Jan 2021, TATA Advanced Systems Limited announced that the company conducted trials successfully for the 8×8 Wheeled Armored Platform in Ladakh. The project was labeled as an indigenous initiative in the Infantry Wheeled Amphibious combat Vehicles domain.
Start-ups as the key drivers for the UGV market in India
Growing innovation in the technology domain is noted to be one of the key drivers for the UGV market. The growth of young start-ups like Tamil Nadu-based Torus Robotics is presently working on UGVs, robotics, and indigenous & disruptive power-train technologies. The company is noted to have gained recognition with Start-up India (DIPP 51485). Torus Robotics has also signed an MOU with Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) at Aero India 2021. The partnership is aimed at the development of Artificial Intelligence-based UGVs. The partnership between Torus Robotics and BEML is to yield a 750 kg AI-based UGV. The use of AI in UGVs is poised to offload mundane activities that presently require human surveillance.
Another notable start-up is Combat Robotics which has been developing Arista Unmanned Ground Vehicles. It is noted to be the world’s first chassisless UGV. The platform features an integrated motor drive as well as a modular design that makes it both portable as well as deployable. The Arista UGV is noted to have high maneuverability across a variety of terrains and it has total durability of roughly 3 hours. Smart Spherical Robots are noted to be a key segment for the company Combat Robotics and their design has been chosen for further optimization by the Indian army. The company has also been focused on developing TOTA which is recorded to be an AI vision-based smart technical throwable robot. The robot also features a thermal feed in addition to a two-way communication facility. The robot can be utilized as a surveillance and reconnaissance tool to help plan and execute high-risk missions as well as rescue operations.