General Dynamics to build robot vehicles

General Dynamics will build robotic vehicles to conduct surveillance and other security tasks for the Army under a five-year contract that could be worth as much as $40 million.

The semi-autonomous security vehicles are designed to perform a number of surveillance activities without the aid of a human driver, including checking for intruders and monitoring stored ordnance.

The contract calls for General Dynamics Robotic Systems of Westminster, Md., to produce 24 vehicles, spare parts and training and technical services ? all part of the Army's Robotic Mobile Detection and Assessment and Response System.

MDARS diesel-driven vehicles have a payload capacity of 500 pounds. They are equipped with sensors and a real-time obstacle avoidance system, and can operate at speeds up to 20 miles per hour for up to 16 hours without refueling.

When completed in January 2009, the first four production vehicles will be assigned to Hawthorne Army Depot, Nev., which has been testing and evaluating prototype models since 2005, the company said.

The depot, which was created as a Navy ordnance repository in 1928, was transferred to the Army in 1977. It receives, maintains and issues ammunition, explosives, expendable ordnance items and weapons.

General Dynamics of Falls Church, Va., ranks No. 7 on Washington Technology's 2007 Top 100 list of the largest federal government prime contractors.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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