Lockheed to develop robot control software

Lockheed Martin Corp. will develop software for small communications robots under a contract the company won from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The robots, called LANdroids, are small enough to fit in a cargo pocket of a soldier's pants. They are being designed to help maintain communications in urban areas, where barriers such as buildings and walls can weaken or break communications networks.

To avoid those problems, LANdroids will sense the strength and patterns of radio signals and, like small spiders, automatically position themselves to fortify signal weaknesses or bridge outages. The contract is worth $1.2 million.

Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Laboratories will develop the LANdroid control software by leveraging successes on its ongoing research on cooperative robotic coordination and from LANdroids-related exploratory research. The software will use radio-frequency sensor data and inputs from other physical sensors to determine and maintain situational awareness. It also will use position data from other LANdroids and warfighters to coordinate their movements and maintain an optimum communications network.

Phase I of development will provide basic situational awareness and coordination capabilities, enabling a small team of robots to work together. During Phase II, LANdroids will navigate more complex environments, coordinate their movements with larger teams of robots and control their power consumption to achieve optimum operational life while responding to the communications network.

Lockheed's Advanced Technology Laboratories leads a team that includes the University of Southern California and Rutgers University.

Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., ranks No. 1 on Washington Technology's 2007 Top 100 list of the largest federal government prime contractors.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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