Muntra ROV UGV
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed an unmanned, remotely operated tank which has three variants - surveillance, mine detection and reconnaissance in areas with nuclear and bio threats. It is called Muntra. Though developed and tested for the Army by Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) in Avadi, paramilitary has expressed interest to use them at Naxal-hit areas. That will require a few modifications. The two remotely operated vehicles designed like an armoured tank were on display at a July 2017 exhibition - Science for Soldiers - organised by DRDO as a tribute to former President APJ Abdul Kalam at CVRDe in Avadi.
CVRDE took up the prestigious UGV project ‘Conversion of BMP-II into Tele-operated and Autonomous Vehicle’ during 2007. The project was subsequently named as Mission UNmanned TRAcked (project “MUNTRA”). The objective of this project was to convert three BMPII classes of tracked amphibious vehicles into teleoperated/autonomous UGV platforms and to implement payloads for unmanned missions of surveillance, NBC reconnaissance and mine detection/marking missions.
Muntra-S is the country's first tracked unmanned ground vehicle developed for unmanned surveillance missions while Muntra-M is for detecting mines and Muntra-N is for operation in areas where there is a nuclear radiation or bio weapon risk. The base vehicle is MUNTRA-B, from which the UGVs are teleoperated through wireless communication links.
Scientists at the Combat Vehicle Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) at Avadi here have developed an unmanned surveillance ground vehicle that can zero-in on 99 moving objects simultaneously from a distance of 10 to 16 km and transmit information. Officials claimed the vehicle codenamed MUNTRA-S (Tracked Unmanned Group Vehicle for Surveillance) is the first unmanned vehicle from the DRDO stable conforming to military standards for both hardware and software designs. A range of technologies and systems are incorporated including electro-optics, sensor fusion, electro-mechanical actuators and communication systems, which enable it to detect targets from a crawling man to heavy vehicles.
The vehicle has been tested and validated at Mahajan field firing range in Rajasthan under dusty desert conditions where temperatures touched 52 C. Army comfortably tele-operated the vehicle. It has surveillance radar, an integrated camera along with laser range finder which can be used to spy on ground target 15km away - may be a crawling men or heavy vehicles.
Reconnaissance and surveillance of hazardous areas or sites of interest are of value to civilian and government agencies alike. While by no means a complete list, hostage and survivor rescue missions, illicit drug raids, reconnaissance, and response to chemical or toxic waste spills are some of the operations that may benefit from a reconnaissance or surveillance component.
Although various systems may satisfactorily provide this capability, one promising solution is provided by the use of small, remotely-operated (or autonomous/semi-autonomous), ground traversing robotic vehicles. Although such miniature robots may be advantageous for their ease of transport to a deployment location and their ability during operation to maneuver in tight spaces, they are generally limited in the terrain and obstacles over which they can navigate when compared to their larger counterparts.
Improving the mobility of small robots is limited by a variety of factors. For instance, the small size of the platform imposes energy constraints by limiting the size of the robot's on-board energy source. Further for example, terrain over which the robot is intended to traverse may pose challenges (e.g., excessive undulations, obstacles, etc.) that are of little consequence to larger units.
One significant challenge presented by unmanned, robotic vehicles is situational awareness. Situational awareness includes detection and identification of conditions in the surrounding environment. Robotic vehicles typically carry a variety of instruments to remotely sense the surrounding environment. Commonly used instruments include technologies such as: acoustic; infrared, such as short wave infrared (“SWIR”), long wavelength infrared (“LWIR”), and forward looking infrared (“FLIR”); optical, such as laser detection and ranging (“LADAR”). Typically, several different instruments are used to employ more than one of these technologies since each has advantages and disadvantages relative to the others.
A common limitation for any of these technologies is the vantage point of the instrument. For instance, the height of the vantage point inherently limits the field of view for any sensor, which is particularly problematical for long-range sensors. The height of the vantage point also affects the perspective of the data collected. For instance, the perspective afforded by a higher vantage point facilitates identifying negative obstacles (e.g., ditches) and cul-de-sacs.
One approach to this problem is to mount at least some of the sensors relatively high on the body of the vehicle. Sensors for which this limitation is particularly problematical are sometimes mounted to a mast extending upwardly from the vehicle. However, simply positioning the sensors high on the vehicle's body or on a sensor mast may offer only marginal improvement. Mounting sensors atop a mast may complicate maneuverability for the vehicle and or have other adverse consequences, such as increasing the vehicle's profile.