Hardware, Technology Security

Land Warfare Challenges Robots in MAGIC 2010


Surveillance and reconnaissance can be a dangerous mission for a foot soldier. MAGIC 2010 was a competition aimed at reducing the threat to human lives by putting robotic teams to work.
University students devised, built, and operated unmanned vehicles to win $750,000 USD. Winners of the Multi Autonomous Ground-robotic International Challenge [MAGIC 2010] were announced during the Land Warfare Conference in Brisbane, Australia. Second and third place were awarded research grants of $250,000 and $100,000 respectively.

Team Michigan wins MAGIC 2010 Challenge. Picture Credit: Brian Ferencz

Team Michigan wins MAGIC 2010 Challenge.

The top team from the University of Michigan fielded a team of 14 robots who navigated a 250,000 square-meter indoor and outdoor course. The mission included intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance within an urban combat environment. Several factors were considered including maps which the teams produced and how long it took to complete three increasingly complex phases. Points were deducted for the amount of time a team took manipulating their robots manually.
The project was sponsored jointly by agencies in Australia and the US. Australia?s Defence Science and Technology Organisation and the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command?s Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center [TARDEC] cooperated in bringing the Challenge to fruition. It took more than two years to bring the project to completion. The goal was to improve upon robot teams that could operate autonomously in dangerous situations keeping soldiers safe. TARDEC is the US laboratory for advanced military automotive technology and is the Ground Systems Integrator for all Department of Defense [DOD] manned and unmanned ground vehicle systems.
MAGIC 2010 saw 43 robots take part featuring the world?s newest technologies. Each team had to deploy three or more robots that involved mapping, identifying threats, and high level, self-directed cooperation among the vehicles. Teams from the US, Australia and Turkey made it to the finals.

Team RASR in Grand Challenge

Team RASR in Grand Challenge

The Michigan team writing in Java partnered with SoarTech which develops intelligent systems that emulate human decision making. Others topping the winners list were from the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia writing in MATLAB; Team Reconnaissance and Autonomy for Small Robots [RASR] from Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Team Cappadocia from Ankara, Turkey combined the talents of Bilkent University, Bogazici University, Middle East Technical University [ODTU] and Ohio State University in the US. They partnered with Aselsan, a Turkish electronics company that designs, develops, and manufactures electronic systems for military and industrial purposes. Aselsan was originally established to meet the communications electronics requirements of the Turkish Armed Forces,
Australia?s entry, MAGICian, combined efforts of the University of Western Australia and Flinders University. Their WAMbot was based on the Pioneer AT 3 platform and equipped with several sensors and computer vision cameras.
Australia?s Parliamentary Secretary for Defense, Senator David Feeney said: "The competing vehicles demonstrated new advances in robotics technology, which are very promising for their potential deployment in combat zones where they can replace our troops in carrying out life-threatening tasks"