Military-Grade AMR Fit for Manned or Unmanned Operations

June 16, 2023
With a focus on military applications, the Stratom XR-P autonomous mobile robot can also be used in mining, agriculture, and logistics applications.

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Stratom specializes in autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) for applications like unmanned cargo movement. In this video, we take a look at  RAPID, the company's Autonomous Refueling, Recharging and Liquid Transfer System, and APL, the Autonomous Pallet Loader. I talked with Ross Wayner in Stratom's corporate development department about the technology. 

Its robots target commercial, industrial, and military applications. This includes indoor warehouses for logistic and supply-chain solutions to rugged outdoor environments such as aircraft landing zones. 

Stratom's RAPID Refuels Aircraft

This Autonomous Refueling, Recharging and Liquid Transfer System is designed to fuel aircraft without operator intervention. It lines up the fuel couplers using machine-learning-enabled video input from cameras mounted on the arm. The system can be used for a variety of purposes, from connecting electric-vehicle chargers to moving other liquids. 

The RAPID system can be adapted to different vehicles on both sides of the equation. It can be used to fuel ground vehicles in military, construction, and trucking applications. It's also able to disperse other liquids from water to hazardous waste. 

Autonomous Pallet Loader (APL)

The APL is available for fueling aircraft as well as ground vehicles. It will pick up 463L pallets and standard warehouse pallets. The AMR can work in warehouses with versions that handle rugged terrain. 

The APL can also be operated remotely. 

Links

  • Stratom
  • RAPID — Autonomous Refueling, Recharging and Liquid Transfer System
  • APL — Autonomous Pallet Loader

The video transcript below has been edited for clarity. 

Bill Wong: Hi I’m Bill Wong with Electronic Design and some of the challenges people have in terms of robotics is moving a lot of heavy equipment and connecting various things like refueling systems. Stratom has a lot of that already deployed and some new stuff available. So can you tell us a little bit first about Stratom? 

Ross Wayner: Yeah. Stratum is a autonomy and robotics company and we've been around for about 20 years. And a lot of what we focus on is, as you mentioned, in the uncrewed, unmanned systems and/or the support for those systems as well. Our technology is generally in support, the logistics segment. Moving a lot of heavy cargo for the Defense Department to support a lot of the work we've done so far. 

That's been small standards, and getting it from where it is to where it needs to be. Doing so while keeping our warfighters safe and keeping them out of harm's way. Now, with a lot of the funding that we've received from those folks, we can transition the intellectual property and the technology we've developed and apply that to commercial spaces. 

The vehicle we have here is our XR Far platform, and it's designed to move up to 4,000 lbs of cargo across any kind of terrain autonomously, avoiding obstacles, driving between GPS waypoints to get from here to there. And this system is great to meet all those metrics we talked about for the for the DoD, but it can also be applied for forestry because it's already more compact. 

You can carry heavier payloads and similar vehicles in the same class, similar things in mining because it's compact, it fits a lot of the requirements that they have in that arena as well. Agriculture and on and on, you name it. So we have a lot of technologies that have been developed, kind of homegrown our own developments, funded by the DoD, that now we're deploying out to the rest of the world as well. 

BW: Very good. Now, another platform you have this sort of built on. This is one for refueling helicopters. 

RW: Yes, exactly. So it's one thing to make a vehicle platform autonomous or an aircraft platform autonomous, but to to refuel that and keep that in the air and keep it driving, you obviously need to keep it refueled and recharged. In some cases, there's alternative fuels and pumping hydrogen into it. So we have a robotic arm in the system that we've leveraged and developed to be able to sense the fuel ports on an aircraft, on a ground vehicle, and to connect the fuel ports together so that we can pump fuel, pump electricity into that device to keep it going. 

It doesn't have to be for an unmanned vehicle. It just seems to make more sense if there's no driver already present. It wouldn't have somebody working 24/7 to to just to man the gas pump. So being able to make that autonomous is a big win for our customers. But because a lot of industries right now are in that transition intermediate phase between having some manned operations and unmanned operations, they can leverage our systems to improve safety, efficiency, reduce costs, those sorts of things. 

So we're deploying now in a lot of places that are, we'll say, optionally manned or selectively manned, and then being ready and future-proof for alternative fuels and alternative autonomy operation as well. 

BW: Another platform you have is actually a forklift, essentially built on the same platform but also adapted to it. 

RW: Exactly. So a similar customer in the DoD had this, had a need to not just carry cargo and deliver it, but to be able to pick it up and manipulate it, move from here to there, drop it off sort of more elegantly than this thing kind of dumping it on the ground as it does in some cases. So we've developed an autonomous forklift. 

We're working on the autonomy software as we speak to develop the, we'll say, the capabilities to pick up and transport that pallet or the palletized cargo autonomously. Right now we're doing it through remote control, but in the next year or so, we'll have that capability ready to go. And the nice thing about autonomy is that you can develop a bunch of micro behaviors. 

So, in this case, this one can do waypoint following. It could do object detection and avoid it so it's not running into things and all of those features; it can live independently. By bundling a bunch of them together, you can create a system that now can complete entire missions by itself. The forklift capability is a new addition that we're doing on top of this platform. 

It can lift up to 10,000 lbs, which is quite a bit more than most vehicles and most forklifts can handle, especially off-road. And one of the more impressive things about that platform as well is that right now it weighs 11,000, and by next year, we hope to have it weighing 10,000. So it'll have a 1:1 lift-to-weight ratio, which is unprecedented in the industry. 

One of the nice things, or I guess, one of the ways that we've been able to accomplish that, is that most forklifts have a ton of dead weight on the back of it as a seesaw to balance it to keep it from tipping forward. So what we've done is we've integrated autonomous outrigger arms on the front of it. 

And so before it picks up cargo, it extends those arms and lowers them to the ground so that the forklift can remain significantly lower weight than competitors in its weight class. And that helps a ton for versatility over off-road terrain. So you're not getting stuck in the mud nearly as easily by weighing less.  

A lot of our requirements for our customers require us to be able to fly in an aircraft, and keeping things as light as possible is critical there because oftentimes the cargo deck is pretty thin. You need to minimize the kind of weights that you put on the deck pressure, the pressure put on the deck. But then also every pound of vehicle that you carry is a pound less of cargo or other useful things that you're not carrying. 

For us, being able to minimize the weights really enables our customers to have a lot more advantage. 

BW: Well, great. Thank you for filling us in on Stratom’s hardware. 

RW: Absolutely, I appreciate it. Thank you. 

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