DSEI 2021: RANG-R, an autonomous multi-role platform from Aardvark

By Paolo Valpolini

A specialist in mine clearing, Aardvark of the UK is unveiling at DSEI its latest product, the RANG-R, for Remote Autonomous Next Generation-Rover.

However this time the Scottish company looked at another risky issue, that of logistic transport in hazardous environments, re-supply being an increasingly dangerous operation in some areas. Leveraging its know-how in vehicle survivability, the RANG-R shares common technologies and capability with the much bigger Aardvark GEN2 robotic mine clearing machine, the company developed a multi-role Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) capable to carry out a wide number of missions, keeping operators away from dangers.

A tracked platform with hybrid propulsion, the RANG-R kerb mass is 2,650 kg, its payload capacity being of 3,850 kg, which makes a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of 6.5 tonnes. The UGV can tow a trailer, bringing the Gross Train mass up to 10 tonnes, with a braked trailer with an overall mass of 3.5 tones, while in case of unbraked trailer that figure is lowered to 750 kg. The RANG-R is 2.659 meters long, 1.580 meters wide, the deck height being 0.92 meters.

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Propulsion is provided by two 115 kW independent motors coupled to a hub planetary gearbox that drive the continuous moulded composite rubber tracks, roadwheels and drive wheels being also made of composite materiel. An electronic dual track control ensures correct speed regulation and steering. Designed to move cross-country, the RANG-R is fitted with independent floating bogie suspensions with electro-controlled variable rate damping, suspensions travel being 90 mm, and has a 425 mm ground clearance at GVM. A diesel multi-fuel powerpack ensures battery reload, the standard battery pack ensuring 1 km silent manoeuvre and 8 hours silent watch, however this can be extended up to 24 hours. The range over mixed terrain is greater than 100 km, mission duration being 72 hours without resupply.

The new Aardvark unmanned multirole platform can reach up to 70 km/h, and is able to cope with a 100% gradient and a 70% side slope at GVM, ground pressure being 0.52 km/cm2. Compared to the usual figure of 30%, the side slope is quite impressive; the design figure is met with the full resupply mission load, the RANG-R being capable to carry two fully loaded NATO pallets. When fitted with the loading crane, which is fitted with cameras and sensors, the UGV is capable to autonomously evaluate the centre of gravity position and to eventually limit the side slope angle should the CG be higher than the standard figure, in order to avoid capsizing, Stuart St. John-Claire, Aardvark Technical Director explained to EDR On-Line.

The platform has a low noise signature, less than 32 dB at 5 meters, as well as a low thermal signature, thanks to a cooled exhaust system, which reduces the risk to be detected while carrying out missions that require stelthness.

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The RANG-R is fitted with a suite of sensors, LIDAR and cameras, linked to its “brain”, that provide him a degree of autonomy. According to Stuart St. John-Claire the platform is now at Level 2, which means it can control both steering and accelerating/decelerating. Aardvark aims at developing the RANG-R up to Level 4, which is defined as High Driving Automation. The path towards that final stage will be carried out through the development of Artificial Intelligence algorithms and self-learning. Currently the platform is considered at TRL 3, and will jump to TRL 5 as soon as it will be selected by a customer. The RANG-R was developed based on requirements that emerged from Aardvark customers in the demining field, who identified a gap in the resupply chain, aiming at reducing human risk, hence the current focus is on this type of mission, although the platform was designed since inception also for mineclearing roles. According to the company technical director, the RANG-R is being considered by three potential customers, one being the UK. The latter is aiming at a high-end platform in terms of autonomy, while other are ready to start at the current autonomy level, aiming at increasing it in due time. No details were provided on those potential customers, but EDR On-Line understood that Europe and the Middle East should be their geographical areas.

As aforementioned, the current focus is on logistic missions, as at least part of the potential customers aim at filling a gap in that area, however Aardvark core business remains mine-clearing, hence its RANG-R can obviously be fitted with a number of solutions, which can be easily powered as the platform can export up to 25 kW. Among special to role equipment we find a 3,625 kg single line self-recovery winch with 30 meters of ultra high molecular weight polyethylene rope, a robotic arm/crane capable to lift 1,850 kg at 2 meters, with an extended reach of over 4 meters and remote release lifting hook. This arm can be fitted with different tools such as haptic feedback manipulators, brush cutters, disruptors, etc, for explosive ordnance disposal operations. Other role equipment can be installed for clearing lanes in minefields, among them a full width dozer blade, which ensures full approach angle when stowed, a roller system, or a powered mine comb with a 1.6 meters width. A 1.6 meters wide flail capable to clear a lane at 0.8 km/h speed to a 300 mm depth can also be fitted ensuring 12.5 hours of continuous operation without resupply, capable to withstand an 8.8 kg explosion under a flail.

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As for mobility, the RANG-R can be underslung as its chassis features integrated front and rear lifting provisions according to STANAG 4478, an auto-release systems being available as option. This allows quick intra-theatre redeployment under medium-lift helicopters, while it can be carried internally into the AW101 and the CH-47 Chinook. It can obviously be flown in by C130, C17 and A400M aircraft, and be deployed over long distances by sea, rail and road transport.

Images courtesy Ardvark