eRider, Safran invents the land-based drone

Safran Electronics & Defense recently unveiled eRider, a new land-based smart robot, at the 2016 Eurosatory international defense and security trade fair. The eRider concept is original in that it incorporates drone capabilities into multi-mission 4-wheel-drive vehicles. The aim is to respond to the new requirements of the armed forces.

During the fair Eurosatory 2016, which took place from 13 to 17 June, Safran presented its eRider tactical robot for ground-based forces for the first time. "Our customer and visitors reacted very enthusiastically to our eRider robot, even more so than we expected," says Thierry Dupoux, the Research and Technology (R&T) Director for the Optronics & Defense division of Safran Electronics & Defense. "eRider is the result of three years of research into the subject of mobility in the future," he explains. "The concept of a hybrid, man-driven 4-wheel-drive vehicle that can also be used as a robot has led our customers to consider introducing robotics into the armed forces. Our customers and visitors appreciated the complementarity with the strategy developed on the Patroller drone (adding drone capabilities to an existing plane)."

Safran Electronics & Defense offers a solution based on the "dronization" of a multi-mission platform, dubbed eRider, which is a 4-seat, 4WD vehicle with optional manned driving. Safran makes a number of contributions to this new robotized vehicle, including all-weather vision, an MPS gyrostabilized optronic turret, geolocation, autonomous platform and mission control, and C4I components, all technologies at the heart of standalone mobility.

Incorporating autonomous functions

The businesses of Safran Electronics & Defense play a central role as regards mobility solutions of the future and ground-based robotics, particularly in terms of guidance and navigation systems, all-weather vision (rain, fog, smoke, night, etc.), embedded electronics and mission preparation. These technologies enable the platform to understand its environment and move within it safely and efficiently.

"To carry out its missions autonomously, whether totally or partially, the eRider robot needs to be fitted with additional equipment from our product catalog: observation sights for controlling fire, acoustic sensors, for reconnaissance or area protection missions, for example," says Thierry Dupoux.

eRider: an autonomous multi-mission platform

eRider is part of the Light Strike Vehicle class, i.e. light tactical vehicles used by armed forces for both logistics and operational missions. Therefore, it is a man-driven, multi-mission 4-wheel-drive vehicle with configurable autonomy functions.

Basically, it can be driven like a conventional vehicle and transport a combat group or it can be used as a robot, with partial or total autonomy, to carry out different intelligence-gathering missions, for example. This hybrid electric vehicle has an on-board electric generator. "It has an autonomy range of up to 300 km and can reach a speed of 70 km/h. eRider is capable of operating with great discretion, due to its very low thermal and acoustic signatures," explains Thierry Dupoux.

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Optimized operational efficiency

"This project is part of Safran's innovation strategy and mobilized all our expertise, in partnership with other companies in the civil sector, such as Valéo," says Thierry Dupoux (see inset). This allowed us to quickly develop an operational system in order to move forward with our customers on the issue of ground-based robotics and the operational changes this will incur." As the theaters of operations become increasingly complex, the needs and expectations of the armed forces are evolving. "Ground-based robotics is far from a being some sort of trend; it is a field that will grow in the future because it has genuine value for the armed forces, notably since it reduces soldiers' exposure to danger," explains the R&T Director. "Indeed, specialized, ground-based robots are already an operational reality; mine-sweeping robots are an example."

Safran is particularly well positioned in ground-based robotics thanks to its major role in the French Army's Scorpion program and its position as the prime contractor for the French Infantry modernization programs (notably the FELIN program). The eRider project is perfectly in tune with these programs. 

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The story of a partnership

To develop its new eRider platform, Safran Electronics & Defense worked closely with several companies and institutions in the civil sector. The concept draws on the research undertaken with the automotive equipment manufacturer Valéo, within the framework of a partnership created three years ago with Safran. This partnership was reinforced through the creation of a joint research chair and laboratory - devoted to the subject of mobility in the future - with the automotive group PSA,  the École des Mines and the French National Research Institute for Computing and Applied Mathematics (INRIA). The collaboration also extended to innovative SMEs such as Technical Studio for the platform of the eRider system, Effidence for the robotization and 4D Virtualiz for the imaging.

 

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