ARMY

FLIR wins latest Army ground robot program of record

FLIR Systems has won a five-year, $109 million contract to build unmanned ground vehicles weighing up to 700 pounds for the Army to use in military operations and homeland defense missions.

The Common Robotic System-Heavy variant is the latest contract for a long-term, program of record the Army has moved on in recent years to acquire fleets of such UGV vehicles across various weight classes.

Those programs of record are a main strategic focus of FLIR and that particularly became evident in February through the company’s acquisition of Endeavor Robotics, one of two main players in the UGV market alongside QinetiQ North America.

CRS-H was technically awarded to the proposal put forth by Endeavor, according to the Pentagon’s Thursday awards digest, with QNA as the other bidder.

FLIR will provide its Kobra robot for CRS-H and will begin to deliver the vehicles in the second quarter of next calendar year with an overall acquisition objective of 248, the Army said in a release Friday. Kobra is designed to lift up to 330 pounds and stretch up to 11 feet, six inches high.

CRS-H is the second major win of a program of record for FLIR and by extension Endeavor in recent years.  Endeavor won a contract two years ago to provide its Centaur vehicle for the Army’s medium-sized UGV program called the Man Transportable Robotic System Increment II.

On the other hand, QNA bested Endeavor in March of year for the Army’s CRS-Individual program to build man-packable robots weighing less than 25 pounds.

Programs of record represent a major shift in how the Army acquired UGVs during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to protect soldiers from improvised explosive devices and other threats in the field.

This new approach is intended to better blend the physical platform itself with the underlying sensors and software that can work on any vehicle and be easily replaced, all of which would be run by one universal controller.

In the case of FLIR, its acquisitions of Endeavor and two other unmanned platform makers in the past three years have also eyed the software piece of the picture.

Some of the next major programs of record on the horizon for the Army are to acquire future fleets of robotic combat vehicles of light, medium and heavy sizes.

The RCT light variant has four teams in the running that were selected in October, while three were chosen for the medium class in a November downselect.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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