Where a half-century ago, automation in our nation's manufacturing revolutionized how things get made, today's iteration of building robots--with all that entails--is the revolution in how things get done.
The Army approaches this revolution, and the technologies that enable it, with an ingrained understanding that slow-rolling adoption or implementation of this concept is akin to standing still while our adversaries grasp an opportunity to dig into our overmatch with vigor.
This understanding is also tempered by multiple cycles of modernization programs cut short and the years and dollars of effort that went with them. With autonomy, how does the Army get onboard in a way that will endure program changes, cancellations and rebirths in a fiscally responsible manner?
The Army's answer is in thinking more modularly about autonomy, at least as applicable technologies, and the Army does so through its Robotic Operating System-Military, or ROS-M. ROS-M is a military-specific implementation of the popular ROS framework for open robotic software development. Although the words "operating system" appear in their names, it is better described as a "middleware"--intended to reduce the complexity in developing robotic software.
ROS-M contains a searchable "app store" of modular autonomy software packages for all types of robotic functions, as well as tools for software development, integration, cybersecurity simulation, data logging and visualization, and other critical functions.
Developers may be from within the Defense Department, contracted partners, other industry members, or academia, and need not have an already-existing relationship with the Army's robotics integrators in order to develop an autonomous behavior in which the Army may be interested.
ROS-M, like ROS, is necessarily agnostic of platform, applicable from small bomb-sniffing robots to the largest land-crawling combat vehicles, from undersea submersibles to unmanned aerial...