MADRID — General Dynamics European Land Systems has rolled out a remote-driving concept for its vehicle lineup that the company presented on its ASCOD light tank at the FEINDEF defense exhibit here.
The feature is meant to give operators the ability to command nearby vehicles via remote-control panels, effectively turning them into pilotless platforms at the push of a button. The capability works with vehicles already equipped with a drive-by-wire architecture as well as those that boast a traditional, manual-steering setup, GDELS-Santa Bárbara Sistemas engineering director David Lugo told Defense News.
The company presented an ASCOD here equipped with two control panels capable of steering both fellow tanks and a newly developed unmanned ground vehicle sporting a gun turret. One of the panels is solely dedicated to that vehicle’s weapon, whereas the other controls movement, per the Spanish Army’s requirements, Lugo explained.
Paid for from the company’s own coffers, the setup will enable GDELS to tap into the growing market for the remote and autonomous driving of vehicles, large and small.
“The system has already been successfully installed on an ASCOD tracked platform and is being tested for various use cases,” a GDELS statement read. “This project is being carried out in collaboration with SENER and the University Institute for Automotive Research (INSIA), part of the Polytechnic University of Madrid.”
As it stands, the system boasts no “brains” that would enable autonomous route navigation or a follow-me type of mode, but those features are next up for development, said Lugo.
The remote-driving concept could be implemented in the British Ajax lineup, for example, which is based on the ASCOD, he added.
The robotic vehicle displayed at the company’s FEINDEF booth came with a six-wheel drive chassis, though tracked versions are possible, according to company officials. The 12.7mm remote weapon station can be swapped for a cargo bed, for example, making the robot a potential multipurpose wingman on the battlefield.
Powered through electric propulsion, the robot’s maximum payload is 500 kilograms in the eight-wheel drive configuration, according to a company statement.
Sebastian Sprenger is Europe editor for Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multinational investments in defense and global security. He previously served as managing editor for Defense News.