Sea Technology

NOV 2012

The industry's recognized authority for design, engineering and application of equipment and services in the global ocean community

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An overview of C-TALON features circa 2009. (Rendering Credit: B. LaBrecque) gets, they would hold fast and wait for the command signal that triggered the detonation of a small explosive charge built into the robot to destroy both it and the mine. The nature of the mis- sion led to this series of robots being named the Lemming. TALON Development Within a few years, the success- ful execution of the Lemming project led FMI to develop similar robotic platforms for a variety of shallow-wa- ter underwater missions for the U.S. Army, Navy and Special Operations Command. By the end of the '90s, the robot's maneuverable tracked un- derpinning was outfitted with an arm featuring a gripper. This new class was called the Tactical Advanced Robot (TAR), a precursor to the TALON. Although the TAR was a waterproof design like the Lemming, the arm was rated only to submergence depth, and the focus of the robot began to shift from sea to land. While on site in Bos- nia supporting the use of the TAR as a land robot for the U.S. military, one of FMI's robotic design engineers fre- quently referred to the TAR as "talon" due to the resemblance of its gripper to a bird's claw. "Talon" quickly became the com- mon reference of EOD specialists in Bosnia for the TAR and led FMI to name its next generation of robots SeaTALON and TALON. The TALON improved upon TAR, while the Sea TALON improved upon the Lemming design by adding sensors to the chassis to provide a greater range of function- ality for operations in the surf zone. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) funded SeaTALON develop- ment for five years, during which time FMI was purchased by QinetiQ and re- named QinetiQ North America Tech- nology Solutions Group (QNA-TSG). SeaTALON engineers worked with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Pana- ma City, Florida, to enhance the robot by adding and testing various sensors, which were used in the ongoing mis- sion to reacquire, identify and neutral- ize mines in or near the surf zone. As the program proceeded, limi- tations of the benthic crawler were exposed. Soft, muddy bottoms some- times caused the SeaTALON to get stuck. Added sensors led to a heavier robot, increasing the likelihood of get- ting stuck on soft bottoms and reduc- ing mission duration through increased power consumption. Perception in tur- bid water was limited because video sensing was difficult and acoustic sens- ing was restricted by surface reflections and noise from breaking waves. Undersea communications also proved challenging. SeaTALON ini- tially used acoustic communications, but the demand for higher bandwidth forced the development of a tethered radio float to maintain communica- tions with the operator control station. The tethered float provided a satisfac- tory communication link, but the float proved difficult to manage in the surf zone. While the SeaTALON was capable of conducting valuable survey work in most operational conditions, it www.sea-technology.com NOVEMBER 2012 / st 17

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