The U.S. Army last week awarded three Other Transaction Authority agreements valued at $14.8 million to three vendors for the Autonomous Tactical Vehicle System, or ATV-S, program. Neya Systems, Carnegie Robotics, and Robotics Research Autonomous Industries will each develop four prototypes.
The initial contracts with Neya Systems, Carnegie Robotics, and Robotics Research Autonomous Industries (RRAI) are for a base award. The Army said its acquisition plan includes an option to procure a total of 41 prototype builds.
The U.S. Army hopes that ATV-S can provide uncrewed operations of tactical wheeled vehicles to support logistics operations. ATV-S mission sets could include supporting convoy operations, waypoint navigation, and teleoperations, according to the Army. These missions aim to reduce soldier exposure to hostile threats while also increasing logistics throughput.
“The Army is keen on suppliers that can take existing military vehicles — including subsystems such as trailers — and enhance them for safe, reliable, robust uncrewed operations through hardware and software integration,” Kyle Bruner, program manager of Force Projection at Program Executive Office Combat Support and Combat Service Support (PEO CS&CSS), said in a release.
“Solutions for both hardware and software components were considered in ATV-S prototype evaluations,” he added.
Neya develops mission-critical autonomy
The Army is seeking to develop systems to convert existing military vehicles into uncrewed vehicles. They will be designed to deploy onto the Army’s Palletized Load Systems (PLS) as part of the Ground Expeditionary Autonomous Retrofit System (GEARS) project.
The U.S. Department of Defense also wants systems that it could adapt to other Army tactical wheeled vehicles and other vehicles within its fleet.
The contracts include communications systems, autonomy-critical hardware such as sensors or computers, graphical interfaces for vehicle command and control, teleoperation enhancements, and autonomous navigation software.
Neya Systems, a provider of off-road autonomy, open architecture, and mission-planning software, recently said it has achieved a technical milestone in the control of off-road vehicles. The company demonstrated the use of Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK) technology to control an uncrewed ground vehicle (UGV).
When evaluating systems, the Army said it is looking for technologies that can help it increase material throughput by eliminating the need for operator work and rest cycles. It also seeks to remove soldiers from vehicles; provide commanders with the flexibility of autonomous modules to better suit mission requirements; and provide safe, reliable, and cyber-secure operation.
About the ATV-S program
The Army said it uses Middle Tier Acquisition pathways to rapidly develop fieldable prototypes within an acquisition program. These prototypes must demonstrate new capabilities or speed up field production quantities of systems with proven technologies that require minimal development.
In late October, the ATV-S program gained Middle Tier Acquisition – Rapid Prototyping Initiation approval. PEO CS&CSS collaborated with the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) to issue the Other Transaction agreements. The agreements are executed under the DIU Commercial Solutions Opening process.
The program allows the Army to modernize at the pace of industry and integrate new technologies as they develop, according to Kent Shea, product manager at Robotic and Autonomous Systems, PM Force Reduction.
“Commercial technologies exist that will enable the Army to close technological gaps and continue to advance autonomous capabilities in the future,” he stated. “Now is an opportune time to modernize with ATV-S in support of Multi Domain Operations in contested environments.”
What comes next?
Each of the agreements provides a base award to support the initial program demonstration phase. During this phase, the Army will evaluate the prototypes through demonstrations planned in FY 2024. Two more optional phases could come next.
If they’re selected to continue to Phase 2, the program participants will undergo a formal Army Test and Evaluation for its four Phase 1 Demo prototypes. They will also add two more prototypes for further evaluation.
During Phase 3, the Army will select one contractor system to build First Unit Issue (FUI) assets, where it will use all six prototypes from the previous phases. The contractor will also add 35 more systems for a total of 41 prototypes in support of the FUI event.