WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army has chosen Waltham, Massachusetts-based QinetiQ North America to produce its new small ground robot following a head-to-head competition with the company’s Boston-based neighbor Endeavor Robotics.
The serviced awarded a production contract for up to $152 million to QinetiQ on March 11 for its Common Robotic System—Individual or CRS-I program, which is its first small-sized — less than 25 pounds — ground robot program of record, according to an Army statement from Fort Benning, Georgia. Fort Benning is the birth place of the capability requirements for CRS-I.
Ultimately, follow-on contracts and options could amount to roughly $400 million for roughly 3,000 robots.
The Army is poised to transform the ground robotics industry over the next year as it launches several competitions to define its future unmanned ground systems fleet.
The Army based its decision on the robot’s performance during an engineering and manufacturing development run-off test at Aberdeen Test Center in October 2018.
The service wanted a ground robot that could be remotely operated, is highly mobile and is lightweight enough for a dismounted soldier to carry in a backpack, the statement notes.
Evidence at Eurosatory shows worldwide defense industry is beginning to grasp and get creative with concepts that team ground and aerial robots with manned systems.
The robot will be managed using a universal controller capable of controlling any future unmanned air or ground platforms.
The robot will come with a variety of payloads and an open architecture to add future capabilities as needed.
The plan is to field the first of the CRS-I systems in fiscal 2020.
The Army had whittled down the competition to QinetiQ and Endeavor in April 2018.
While Endeavor kept its system under wraps during the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in October 2018, the company unveiled its submission for the CRS-I competition — the Scorpion — in December.
The CRS-I award is a major step toward the Army’s push to transform its hodgepodge of a petting zoo of 7,000 unmanned ground vehicles acquired during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a streamlined collection of systems.
The Army plans to procure unmanned ground vehicles with just a few common chassis among them in small, medium and large ranges as well as a universal controller.