Despite the US Army Artillery’s nearly 250-year existence, human evolution has so far failed to provide Homo Sapiens with arms which are optimized for artillery loading. It seems the Army has tired of waiting for the inevitable evolution of its artillerymen from Homo Sapiens into Homo Libritor as it had the Austin-based Army Applications Laboratory (AAL) bring together six companies tasked with one common mission: “increase how fast artillery pieces fire and are resupplied”. Eventually, Austin-based Apptronik was selected as the company which will continue the development of its prototype – a robotic arm. On 30 April, the company will demonstrate its new system to the AAL.
According to AAL project manager Chris Sankovich:
“What Apptronik developed wasn’t at all what the Army was looking for when we launched the Artillery Resupply Cohort. It shows what’s possible when we give the nation’s best and brightest the space to innovate and use their expertise to tell us the best way to solve a problem.”
Apptronik’s best and brightest, now highly-praised for their most innovative idea to use a robot arm to do what had been done by a human arm, claim that the new arm weighs about 200lbs (90kg), can carry well over its weight in ammunition and is capable of autonomously resupplying ammunition transportation vehicles. It also features back up controls for soldiers to utilize should the arm fail to autonomously do what it is said to be capable of autonomously doing. The prototype was developed in just nine months which, for comparison, is faster than the army’s development and rollout of standardized facemasks.
The Texan company is not a new partner for the US government. It has worked on a variety of high-tech projects like the Sagittarius exoskeleton and NASA’s Valkyrie robot. In the company’s words, they specialize in “human-centered robotics” and develop systems meant to work “in close proximity to humans”.
The AAL’s artillery-loading initiative is tied to the army’s current focus on precision fires which has so far spawned programs like the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) project.