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Army picks 6 to work on autoloader for extended-range cannon

Army picks 6 to work on autoloader for extended-range cannon

WASHINGTON — The Army has picked six companies to work on concepts and designs for an autoloader for the service’s future Extended-Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) program currently under development, according to a Jan. 24 Army Futures Command statement.

While the first ERCA cannons will be fielded in fiscal 2023, the goal is to begin fielding the system with an autoloader just one year later.

The companies — Actuate (formerly Aegis Systems, Inc.); Apptronik, Inc.; Carnegie Robotics LLC; Pratt & Miller Engineering; Neya Systems, LLC and Hivemapper, Inc. — will work under the Army Capability Accelerator and the Army Applications Laboratory (AAL) as part of the Field Artillery Autonomous Resupply (FAAR) “cohort” and will come up with novel, outside-of-the-box concepts for the autoloader.

AAL is part of AFC, the Army’s new four-star command in charge of rapid modernization that will align with the service’s new developing doctrine.

The cohort began work on Jan. 13 in Austin, Texas, where the AAL and AFC reside, and will wrap up work with capability presentations on April 2, the statement notes.

“Sourced from across the country, the selected companies represent a range of technologies and expertise all aimed at developing autonomous resupply capabilities,” the statement reads.

Among the companies selected, Actuate specializes in artificial intelligence focusing on computer vision software that turns any security camera into an “intruder- and threat-detecting smart camera,” the release states.

Apptronik is a robotics company spun out of the Human Centered Robotics Lab at the University of Texas at Austin.

Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Robotics specializes in robotic sensors and platforms for defense, agriculture, mining, infrastructure and energy applications and was founded out of Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center.

Pratt & Miller’s focus has been on addressing technology challenges in the motorsports, defense and mobility industries.

Neya Systems, also from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is another robotics company focused on advanced unmanned systems, off-road autonomy and self-driving vehicle technologies.

Through mapping, visualization and analytic tools, Hivemapper uncovers changes normally missed by the human eye and uses that technology to assess damage after disasters, manage construction and build situational intelligence during military operations.

The AAL has become the face of doing business with the Army in the startup community and has set up shop in the heart of Austin within an innovation incubator hub called the Capital Factory. Anyone can walk through an open garage door and pitch ideas to the Army and the service. But the Army is also going out to companies and trying to convey problems they need solved on the battlefield in the hopes of finding new and novel solutions.

“Designed for small businesses and companies that don’t typically work with the federal government, the program connects qualified companies that want to grow a new line of business into the DoD with Army stakeholders who want to speed capability development, transition to a program of record, or de-risk and inform requirements,” according to the statement.

“We’ve spent the past year working to introduce commercial business models that translate to the Army and can help evolve its approach to capability development,” Porter Orr, product innovation lead at AAL, said. “We’re helping nontraditional companies build a new line of business into the government. And that’s important, but it’s just as important that we’re giving Army leaders a choice between writing a large check or doing nothing. This is a way for them to get more insight—more confidence—in a solution before purchasing it. That will mean a higher probability of success in the field.”

Cohort participants receive $150,000 to complete a 12-week program ending in a pitch to the Army.

FAAR is the pilot effort of likely many attempts to bring in non-traditional businesses to help solve some of the Army’s problems both big and small.

Source : Jen Judson Link to Author