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Autonomous Range Management Vehicle: Proof of Concept Prototype

Over the past six years, HDT and the US armed forces have invested over seven million US dollars in developing a half-ton unmanned vehicle. The purpose of this vehicle is to carry heavy loads across rugged terrain to supply infantry soldiers. The precursor system (Protector) is powered by a 24 kW turbo-diesel engine and will travel 100 kilometres on 60 litres of diesel fuel. The vehicle produces about 2 kW of electrical power for payloads. We have sold a number of these vehicles to the US Army, which have been used in nearly a dozen different field evaluations.  For the Australian livestock market, we believe this vehicle needs to have higher fuel efficiency, longer range, greater mission duration, and a limited silent-run capability for operating near livestock.

This project focused on the development of a proof-of-concept prototype of a hybrid diesel-electric drivetrain, which would allow multi-day endurance, while also providing an electric-only silent drive mode to reduce the potential of disturbing livestock. The hybrid drive was integrated onto an unmanned vehicle and tested in off-road environments. Power requirements were measured over different terrain types while carrying varying amounts of load.

There are many operations on remote cattle and sheep stations that are difficult to perform consistently, due to labour constraints that a rugged, autonomous ground vehicle could enable and/or facilitate.  To this end HDT, through MLA, formed a Steering Committee for this project with representation from six Australian companies.

This project was the first step in adapting a ground vehicle to serving the needs of remote cattle and sheep stations. Given the project's successful completion we recommend that follow-on efforts include the development and "experimental prototype" that will:

  1. extend its range and further increase its mission duration via the addition of a larger – secondary - fuel tank,
  2. incorporate an autonomous navigation controller,
  3. integrate waypoint GPS navigation software and operator interface,
  4. integrate video streaming and/or local recording,
  5. integrate basic obstacle avoidance such as auto stop.

In order to start equipping the vehicle with the capabilities/functionality required to address the specific tasks needed to improve natural resource management, labour productivity, and overall value.

HDT also recommends traveling to Australia to visit with various ranchers including cattle and sheep stations in order to better understand not only the tasks that an autonomous range management vehicle could add value to but also to observe the environment/terrain and how those tasks are being performed now.  

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Title Size Date published
1.6MB 15/11/2017

This page was last updated on 18/12/2017

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