MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII (5/17/2013) — Marines from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific trained to operate a rapid area sensitive-site reconnaissance robot, the only robot of its kind in the Department of Defense, during an advanced technology demonstration program at the 3rd Marine Regiment headquarters here, May 8.
Representatives from the ATD program showed Marines that the RASR robot system consists of several integrated technologies. By providing this system to the Marines, they had the opportunity to receive additional operator input on the utility of the system.
One of the newest pieces of technology the robot uses is called an Avalon. Located on the moving arm of the robot, the Avalon is a palm-sized sensor that can detect chemical or biological threats in an area.
Users can observe where the RASR is going by looking at a monitor connected to cameras mounted to the robot’s base and RASR’s arm, where the Avalon is located.
The RASR surveyed the test area and created a visual for the user to see everything in the test area. When the Marine decided the RASR needed to go back to the starting point, the robot automatically maneuvered itself using the map it created when it fi rst entered the test area. The robot returned back, without users manually controlling it.
“The RASR is a great piece of gear and will keep Marines safe from unnecessary danger,” said Sgt. Byron Solano, the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear chief for Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment and a native of Reno, Nev. “It’s one of the most user friendly robots I have used in the Marine Corps. It has that video game feel to it and once you get used to the controls, it’s very easy to use.”
During the training, Marines put the Avalon system to the test. The Avalon shot a laser chemical detector, a chemical vapor detector, a radiological detector, and a laser range finder for mapping of hazards within areas of interest.
“The RASR is most advanced technology I have seen over the course of my career,” said Gunnery Sgt. Eric Schleher, the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear chief for 3rd Marine Regiment and a native of Dunnellon, Fla. “We are really enjoying the opportunity to interact with this degree of advanced technology.”
Glass test tubes were positioned on a table down the hall from where the operator controlled the RASR. He directed the RASR down the hall while monitoring all of its’ sensors to effectively lead the machine to the test tubes.
Marines found them inside the room using the cameras on the RASR. They correctly positioned the Avalon to begin analyzing what was inside the test tubes. Marines aimed the robots sensors onto the substance to be tested, like they were aiming rifles. The Avalon shot a laser where Marines aimed on the test tube, and it told the user what kind of substance was inside.
Operators also targeted a bottle of soap for analysis. The program identified the brand of soap, where it was made, who made it and which chemicals were inside. The RASR has the ability to identify the same information from the soap as many different substances found on the battlefield.
Representatives said the robot takes on the risks human detection crews face in combat. Instead of sending a Marine into an area with potentially deadly radiation or biohazards, the RASR can inspect the area and substances to mark if the coast is clear or to stay away.
The RASR robot may not wear the uniform, but for Marines in combat, the robot is just as much part of them.