July 10, 2007 Lockheed Martin has successfully demonstrated its Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment (MULE) robotic vehicle’s ability to autonomously navigate complex obstacles. The MULE's Engineering Evaluation Unit (EEU) climbed a 30-inch step and bridged a 70-inch gap without operator intervention, relying only on parametric descriptions of the obstacles and the vehicle's self-awareness. This brings the project a step closer to its aim of providing robotic vehicles by 2013 that can keep pace with dismounted soldiers on any terrain whilst providing firepower support, casualty evacuation or enough payload capacity to support two dismounted infantry squads
The MULE’s highly mobile platform employs 6x6 independent articulated suspension coupled with in-hub motors powering each wheel to achieve extreme mobility in complex terrain, outstripping the capability of larger high-mobility vehicles such as the HMMWV (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle).
The EEU represents a full-scale MULE vehicle - the largest and most sophisticated robotic vehicle yet constructed by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control and its partners in Unmanned Ground Vehicle development.
Designed and built in only 13 months, the vision for the project is to relieve future soldiers of dull, dirty and dangerous jobs and facilitate greater focus on the mission at hand as the U.S. Army moves towards a lighter and more mobile fighting force.
The ARV-Assault Light version will be armed with a line-of-sight gun and an anti-tank capability and is designed to provide immediate, heavy firepower to the dismounted Soldier.
The Transport MULE version is designed to provide volume and payload capacity with multiple tie-down points and removable side railings that can be configured to support a variety of payloads. It is also designed to support casualty evacuation needs.
“We've now demonstrated mobility that exceeds the HMMWV or any other small combat vehicle," said Joe Zinecker, program manager for the FCS MULE at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "The MULE can keep up with dismounted Soldiers, and will not be restricted to roads or trails like most other vehicles. We are eager to provide this capability to our Soldiers as early as 2013."