GLOBAL DEFENSE MARKET
Polaris Vehicles Adopt Driverless Technology
“We do not make unmanned ground vehicles but we’ve kind of adopted a strategy since 2010 to really make the vehicles ready to accept a lot of the unmanned … technology,” said Patrick Weldon, product development manager at Polaris. “We’ll work with pretty much any of these robotic companies to help with integration, sensor placement [and] alignment.”
Polaris manufactures a number of ground systems including military vehicles, ATVs, motorcycles and snowmobiles. It will modify some vehicles for limited production runs so customers can insert their own equipment onto the platform, he said.
Polaris has worked with companies such as QinetiQ, TORC, ASI and STKinetics to turn its vehicles into unmanned systems.
The company also recently manufactured a truck that can be driven by robots. In June, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency used Polaris vehicles during its Robotics Challenge Finals at the Fairplex in Pomona, California.
The DARPA Robotics Challenge pitted companies and research organizations against each other to build a robot that could be used in disaster-relief tasks. Polaris’ limited edition Ranger XP 900 EPS vehicle participated in the competition.
In one challenge participants were required to have their robot drive to a specific location and then remove itself from the Ranger, Weldon said. Polaris sold 12 limited edition vehicles to participants to be used for practice and nine to DARPA. Each Ranger costs $49,000.
Some of the participants requested modifications to the vehicle, he noted. “A lot of the robots had trouble holding on to the steering wheel and getting out of the vehicle when they arrived at the site or getting into the vehicle when the challenge start[ed],” Weldon said. “So we modified the rollover protection system on the vehicle so the robot can grab that instead of grabbing the steering wheel to lift themselves up and to turn around to get out of the vehicle.”
During the challenge, most special modifications were removed from the Rangers at DARPA’s request, he said, which meant the vehicles used were nearly identical to the commercial limited edition units the company has sold to the military.