NREC developed sensing, teleoperation, and autonomy packages for BAE Systems' Black Knight, a prototype unmanned ground combat vehicle (UGCV). This program demonstrated how UGCVs can be used in the field to support soldiers during ground operations.
Black Knight can be used during day or night missions that are deemed too risky for a manned ground vehicle (including forward scouting, reconnaissance surveillance and target acquisition, (RSTA), intelligence gathering, and investigating hazardous areas) and can be integrated with existing manned and unmanned systems. It enables operators to acquire situational data from unmanned forward positions and verify mission plans by using map data to confirm terrain assumptions.
Black Knight can operate autonomously or can be teleoperated from within another vehicle (for example, from the commander's station of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle) or by dismounted soldiers. Its Robotic Operator Control Station (ROCS) provides an easy-to-use interface for teleoperating the vehicle.
Black Knight's perception system fuses LADAR range data and camera images to detect both positive and negative obstacles in its surroundings, enabling its autonomous navigation system to avoid them.
Black Knight's autonomous navigation system features include fully-automated route planning and mission planning capabilities. It can plan routes between waypoints – either direct, straight-line paths, or paths with the lowest terrain cost (that is, the lowest risk to the vehicle).
These autonomy capabilities can also assist Black Knight's driver during teleoperation. Black Knight can plan paths to be manually driven by its operator. In “guarded teleoperation” mode, objects that are detected by the perception system are overlaid on the driving map, enabling drivers to maneuver around them. The vehicle also stops when it detects lethal obstacles in its path.