Black-I Robotics has developed a robotic arm for the LandShark chassis that has unparalleled reach, cost and control for a mid-sized UGV.
The third generation LandShark Arm which we began delivering in 2011 and 2012 was designed to address various challenges. TSWG tasked us specifically to build an arm that could address the issues of vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) like the Times Square bombing. This meant that the arm must be large enough to reach into trucks and cars, able to lift propane tanks and 20 liter fuel tanks and do it in a manner that didn't involve bashing the arm into the numerous obstacles it encountered. Furthermore this arm needed to fit on a chassis like the LandShark that was able to traverse interior door frames of buildings and yet be robust enough to work outdoors in various climates.
The arm Black-I developed to meet this threat has 8 degrees of freedom plus the gripper. It has the ability to reach vertically over 11 feet, below ground plane over 3 feet and horizontally at least 6 feet. Its gripper can lift weight up to a human at various ranges and can grasp objects about a foot in width.
One problem confronted by operators of a robotic system is depth perception. With the LandShark arm we have added multiple cameras and various IR and sonar sensors to the arm and gripper. In fact the gripper in most configurations has 3 such devices. This allows the operator to actually read the range to target as the arm or grippers approaches the object of interest.
The arm itself, while initially designed for the LandShark chassis, has
become a stand-alone product. It is fully computer controlled and can
be mounted or dismounted from a vehicle with six bolts, 36 volt power
and an Ethernet connection. This allows this module to now be mounted
on other manned and unmanned vehicles such as trucks, backhoes, etc.
As development progressed we realized that we could reach below ground
plane and as a consequence might be useful in dealing with IEDs hidden
in culverts and yet be able to reach through a truck window.
In 2011 we deviced a means of attaching a backhoe digging device onto the end of the arm and have begun characterizing that capability now as a possible means of digging up IEDs, mines and other buried objects. This module will be delivered to the Air Force for further testing.