Unmanned Miltary Supply Vehicle

November 27, 2008

Unmanned Miltary Supply Vehicle
~James Dunn

A military market that Ford may capitalize upon.

Future Combat Systems (FCS) is a US Government directive for the development of a unified military. All unmanned vehicles shall communicate via a standardized message package; described by the Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JAUS).


An immediate need is to have relatively low-cost unmanned vehicles running at high speeds delivering supplies in a wartime environment.

Ford currently has the separate technologies to provide this military and commercial need. This is more of a systems engineering effort rather than research.

The Lexus has shown that steering, braking, and throttle can be coordinated in a commercial product for auto-parking. Add to this a road sensor that can reliably position the vehicle within inches in all-weather conditions, and a supply vehicle costing not much more than a tractor trailer becomes a reality.

Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) transponders cost about $0.20 each, can be embedded in nails/screw heads, have a range of 100 to 600 feet, are the size of a grain of rice, are robust, and can hold about 2kBytes of data. The range and direction of the RFID can be controlled by shielding provided by the nail/screw body.

For geolocation, RFID are better than GPS, 38 bytes of data can uniquely mark every road in the US every 3 feet, one in every lane, assuming that ALL US roads are 4 lane highways. RFID are not affected by any known weather condition and can be encoded for security.

By creating a JAUS compatible interface in two(2) of the basic Ford trucks, 1-ton & tractor trailer, using RFID embedded in roadways with a transponder in each vehicle, vehicles can precisely move supplies from location to location unmanned. Oversight can be accomplished either by a manned lead vehicle, aerial observation, manned check points, or any number of other scenarios.

A simple vehicle could largely automate the insertion and data collection related to the RFID nail/screws. A dGPS would record the exact position, an on-board computer would log the position, roadway type, distance to the curb/ditch, overhead obstacles, and any other information desired for that location.

Because the vehicles are unmanned, this reduces the military target value for the trucks. Because the trucks are low-cost, they can simply be pushed off the road until they can be extracted.

The secondary benefit is that after the conflict ceases, the embedded RFID still exist and Ford can supply that country with automobiles equipped with auto-pilot capabilities. The roadways can be precisely driven upon even in sand storms, flooding, and snow storms.

This also allows for wringing out the bugs related to auto-pilot performance of a variety of vehicles with an exceptionally low risk in liabilities.


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