What is behind the corner at Patria? Over ten years ago the company developed a hybrid version of its AMV. The program was then put on hold, something common to that type of initiative other companies having also put on hold such type of research. “We are continuing to closely look to the hybrid solution as the technology has matured, and we want to discuss with users as well about their needs and expectations in this field.” Janne Räkköläinen says. “One of our major efforts in this very moment is on unmanned and autonomous systems, as we consider that this will be the big theme in the coming years,” he explains, mentioning the company participation in the ELROB 2018 contest that took place at Mons, Belgium, in late September 2018. Patria has fitted an AMV with an optionally driven system that is totally transparent: all actuators are installed within the vehicle, thus the driver can jump in its seat and control the vehicle as usual, or can activate the autonomous driving system. The AMV took part in the “convoy” scenario competition, and being the biggest vehicle in the fray it obviously had to cope with dimensional problems, however according to the company it managed to fully complete the course.
To develop the autonomous functions for its AMV, Patria cooperated with Diehl Defence of Germany and Finnish specialist companies in the digital domain. For the time being the vehicle works in the teleoperated built-in mode, and features also the follow-me function, the first target being to fit the vehicles with a “convoy mode” capable to reduce the manpower needed in convoys, thus lowering the risks. The teleoperated mode can be used to send the unmanned vehicle ahead of the convoy, the end-state to which Patria aims being obviously a semi-autonomous vehicle, the company considering that for the time being the man-in-the-loop remains essential. Last-mile transport operations, reconnaissance in hostile environment, IED-clearance operations, are all potential fields of application. “We are talking intensively with potential users,” Räkköläinen explains, “learning from each other and discussing of operational uses cases and also the safety factors, i.e. how quickly an autonomous vehicle must stop in case of emergency.” Training and fighting modes are also being developed.
The base system is ready, and we had the opportunity to witness the performances of the unmanned AMV which was carrying out data-link tests in the Parolannummi training area where the Finnish Army Armoured Brigade usually trains, the area being more used to see manned Leopard 2s and T-72s rather than unmanned wheeled vehicles. The basic system in its first iteration is ready, Patria being involved in discussions with the customer on final details. Tests in winter conditions were completed, the next step during this year being the finalization of a new transportable remote-control unit that can be easily integrated into a vehicle.