In order to combat the increase in improvised explosive device (IED) deaths in war zones, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, a variety of research on IED detection is presently being conducted. Millions of dollars are spent seeking ways to detect or circumvent the function of IED’s, but very little research is being conducted about how to deliver these detection devices to their intended search paths in a safe, inexpensive and reliable way. The intent of Dr. Litowitz’s Keystone Innovation Grant is to develop a safe, inexpensive and reliable prototype of a full‐scale unmanned vehicle that can be remotely controlled from a distance of up to one mile. This prototype vehicle could serve as a platform for remote surveillance and the safe mobile transportation platform for IED detection device(s). The specific objectives of the project are 1) Integrate artificial vision, hydraulic, mechanical, electrical, and programmable control subsystems so that they function effectively as a cohesive vehicle control system. 2) Fabricate and design unique control circuitry and equipment mounting systems. 3) Test and refine all subsystems as necessary to meet intended guidelines for proof of concept. The vehicle has obvious military applications but could also be adapted for various emergency response needs.
The project is led by Dr. Len Litowitz of Millersville’s Department of Industry & Technology and involves three students. Since the students are not receiving class credit, they all signed Intellectual Property agreements, which if the vehicle has commercial potential, will allow Dr. Litowitz and the University to utilize the services of the Penn State Research Foundation to protect the intellectual property through patenting or other avenues, and to market the vehicle to potential manufacturers.
The project attained all expected outcomes, including full assembly of the vehicle, and testing and refinement of remote control, the electro-mechanical subsystems, and the vision system. Finally the vehicle was demonstrated at the US Army War College. Comprised of commercially available components, the vehicle itself is not patentable. However, this is an entry into an on-going high needs research area and could easily attract sponsors for further research and development. In addition, the project provided a unique undergraduate research opportunity for Millersville students.