Customer support is a key element of our service. At COBBS we have become adept at supporting our customers in understanding what their operational needs are, including providing necessary product training. Recently COBBS, together with QinetiQ, hosted a training event for Engineers of the Royal Dutch Army on the Dragon Runner 20.
The Engineers recently took delivery of QinetiQ’s Dragon Runner 20 (DR20) Unmanned Ground Robot. “The Dragon Runner gives the soldiers stand-off capability in searching”, says Nathan Desmeule, senior director business development land systems with QinetiQ. “They have been training with these robots for some months and we are here to teach them maintenance and operator skills. Consider here the more advanced subject matter expertise like night operations and stairs. It is part of the route to being ready for deployment”, explains Nathan. “We start with maintenance on day one and on day two they operate the Dragon Runner when keeping the robot in sight. On the last day we let each operator run the robot in a tactical exercise. This run is remote, as will be the case in most real-life scenarios. The operators cannot see the robot and will have to rely on the picture of the four build-in cameras on the universal controller. This makes it much harder to control the robot and requires more practice”.
One of the operators being trained on QinetiQ’s DR20 stated: “After our own training we will train the rest of the Company so everybody will be able to use the robot. Without prior knowledge of the robot it is all pretty technical. The most difficult is getting to know the controls when you cannot actually see the robot. But after some practice I notice my improvements with managing/operating the controls”.
The exercise starts with the robot laying on its side. The operator first has to figure out a way to get it back on its tracks. After that the next hurdle is manoeuvring the steps at the entrance to the building. Using the arm of the robot as counterweight and support is key in these first two challenges. As Nathan explained, using the cameras to paint yourself a picture of the surroundings is important. Written notes have been placed around the rooms with orders. Picking up items and placing them somewhere else, opening a door and manipulating items carefully are some of the demanding challenges which require the utmost concentration. Looking back at the training, the Engineers were satisfied with the new features learned and the experience in handling the robot in tough situations.
The DR20 is not new to the Dutch Military. In 2014, several robots were delivered for use by the EOD unit (Explosive Ordnance Disposal). This unit provides 24/7 EOD-support to the authorities within the Netherlands. The EOD also supports military units in deployment areas all over the world. With the addition of the QinetiQ Dragon Runner 20 teams will be able to operate safely both at home and on deployment.