“Space Eyes” - A New Robot for the Polish Army

18 października 2017, 13:41
Image Credit: PIAP
Miniaturized multi-purpose modular digital camera. Image Credit: Creotech Instruments
Image Credit: PIAP

According to an old military saying, “sapper only makes a mistake once”. Introduction of the Balsa reconnaissance robots into the inventory of the Polish Armed Forcesrenders the aforesaid rule irrelevant, at least to some extent. The task assigned to the aforesaid systems is to support the soldiers in critical scenarios, without exposing them to risks related to the situation in which the robot would find itself. Several Balsa robot sets, some of which have already been delivered to the Polish soldiers, have been fitted with special purpose cameras made by the Creotech Instruments S.A. company.

The full name of the device created by the Polish Industrial Research Institute for Automation and Measurements (PIAP) reads as follows: “Engineering EOD/IED Support Robot for Removing Dangerous Materials and Loads, a.k.a. BALSA – Light Reconnaissance Robot (LRR) Engineering Robot Model 1507”. In short: the Balsa Robot. It is a light system, with dimensions of 60×50×19 cm, that has been designed to carry out reconnaissance in areas directly adjacent to the operational theatres, including the areas inaccessible for the soldiers. It may move at top speeds of up to 8 kph, with operational endurance of 60 minutes. The robot may be fitted with up to 3 camera systems: separate daytime-night, thermal vision and night vision devices, which allows the user to conduct observation at all times of day.

Rapid Eyes for the Sapper

Creotech Instruments company, specializing itself in space projects, is equipping the Balsa robots with modular camera systems, also including the central control unit featuring single core processors, along with power supply system and communications module.

Guarantee of minimal delays in video streaming from the camera to the operator unit is, decisively, a distinguishing factor for our solution, maintaining the required broadcasting stability and high image quality. Here we are speaking of maximum delays of 0.15 seconds, in comparison with several seconds ascribable to standard streaming at this level of quality. The requirements above bear a great relevance in case of robots of this class, whose operators need to momentarily react to the events unfolding during IED or reconnaissance operations.

Martyna Ulinowicz, representing the Creotech Instruments S.A. company

Creotech, as of now, has already delivered 100 complete camera systems, several central modules and communications modules for the thermal vision cameras. Another 155 systems, in a variety of configurations, are still in production. The cameras delivered by Creotech have been designed with operation in a wider range of temperatures in mind, an in a way that would make them shock- and vibration-resistant, especially with regards to such impact that they may be exposed to during combat operations, including recce and IED/bomb disposal missions.

Miniaturized multi-purpose modular digital camera. Image Credit: Creotech Instruments

Mobile Partner

Balsa robot has been fitted with wheels/continuous track system with moving front stabilizers, allowing the platform to efficiently move along hardened and dirt roads, offroad and in the urbanized areas, with radio transmission range of 300 metres.

The creators of the robot also place a great emphasis on the compact and multi-purpose design of the 15 kg robot that may be carried in a backpack, and, depending on the equipment attached, that could be used for surveillance, IED carrying/neutralization or to carry means of sabotage. A specialized manipulator used by the robot has a reach of 100 cm and may carry weights of up to 1 kilogram.

The robots’ cameras, including the daytime/night cameras (on optionally: night-vision, thermal-vision) make it possible to maintain observation at any time. Perfect offroad capabilities, enhanced thanks to the wheels-continuous track system with front stabilizers, allow for easy movement along hardened and dirt roads, offroad and in the urbanized areas.

Tomasz Krakówka MSc - Balsa robot designer working at the Polish Industrial Research Institute for Automation and Measurements.

Order for the Polish Army until the End of 2018

In 2016 the Armament Inspectorate of the Polish MoD signed a procurement agreement concerning 53 Balsa packages. The robots would be tasked with IED/Bomb disposal/neutralization of dangerous packages operations support.

The robots were to be received by the engineering and sapper units to support the soldiers in situations of critical nature, without exposing them to any emerging threats. According to the tactical and technical assumptions, the robot was to make it possible to carry out reconnaissance in Inaccessible areas, e.g. in the areas where mines are densely present or in the regions where the special forces operate.

The operator, by the means of utilizing the robot, would be able to search the means of transport for presence of dangerous objects, or inspect ditches and tunnels under the roads. The observation capabilities were to be offered by high resolution cameras with IR illumination system, daytime/night camera and a thermal vision camera.

Image Credit: PIAP

In November 2016 the test programme concerning the Balsa system was finalized with a positive result, with the first platform, along with a maintenance/repairs kit and a spare parts package, delivered in December that year. On 28th June 2017 the Industrial Research Institute for Automation and Measurements has delivered another lot of 26 Balsa robot kits. Training Centre of the Engineering and Chemical Branch of the Polish Army is going to be the facility where training for 35 operators, maintainers and instructors is planned to take place. The last delivery of the BALSA robot is going to be finalized by the end of June 2018.

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