Autonomy Artificial Intelligence Robotics (AAIR)

μSMET: A Lightweight Transport Robot

by Katharina Grenn; Cristian Adam; Timothy Kleinow; Brian Mason; Oleg Sapunkov; Paul Muench; Sridhar Lakshmanan


Modern robotic technologies enable the development of semiautonomous ground robots capable of supporting military field operations. Particular attention has been devoted to the robotic mule concept, which aids soldiers in transporting loads over rugged terrain. While existing mule concepts are promising, current configurations are rated for payloads exceeding 1000 lbs., placing them in the size and weight class of small cars and ATVs. These large robots are conspicuous by nature and may not successfully carry out infantry resupply missions in an active combat zone. Conversations with soldiers and industry professionals have spotlighted a need for a compact, lightweight, and low-cost robotic mule. This platform would ensure reliable last-mile delivery of critical supplies to predetermined rally points. We present a design for such a compact robotic mule, the μSMET. This versatile platform will be integrated with the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET), to ferry supplies to soldiers in combat, evacuate the wounded, transport loads on a forced march, while having the ability to be carried by a soldier. The μSMET’s variable geometry enhances mobility over challenging terrain: its rear wheel assembly can expand to increase its stability or contract to reduce its profile. This publication will describe the design and construction of a prototype μSMET.