Navy sets sail with robotics lab

Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research has labs for testing robots in different natural environments, including rain forests and deserts.

Captain Paul Stewart, the commanding officer of the Naval Research Laboratory, shows two robots from the Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research.
Captain Paul Stewart, the commanding officer of the Naval Research Laboratory, shows two robots from the Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research. Jamie J. Hartman/Naval Research Laboratory

The U.S. Navy is making autonomous robots a bigger part of its mission.

The Naval Research Laboratory yesterday announced the opening of the Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research, an addition to the lab's campus in Washington, D.C.

The $17.7 million lab was created to allow scientists and engineers to test robotic devices in a range of environments where service members serve. It includes a simulated tropical rain forest in a greenhouse, a room with desert features, and a pool similar to near-shore waters.

The Navy, and the military in general, is one of the biggest drivers behind the development of robots. Among some of the projects under way now are a firefighting robot for use aboard Navy ships, an underwater robot for searching and monitoring, and a hydrogen-propelled small unmanned aircraft.

"Advancing robotics and autonomy are top priorities for the Office of Naval Research. We want to reduce the time it takes to deliver capability to our warfighters performing critical missions," said Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, in a statement.

Having a single lab for testing autonomous robots in different environments will help speed up development, he said.

 

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