Spread from Strike and Tactical magazine's November issue

Spread from Strike and Tactical magazine’s November issue (Source: SAT)

The Ministry of Defense’s Technical Research and Development Institute has developed a unmanned roaming vehicle based on the Suzuki Jimny, according to an article in SAT (Strike and Tactical) magazine this month. While I don’t have the magazine to hand, it has been described its most basic terms elsewhere: [Three different vehicles have been] The vehicle, capable of being controlled in three ways, developed using the Suzuki Jimny base vehicle. The Jimney’s small size, particularly in width, makes it an ideal first response vehicle not only for the SDF but also the fire, police services, etc. 

Keen-eyed readers will probably notice that there appears to be two sets of controls. In the background is a field computer unit with a steering wheel and pedals, but the soldier also appears to be holding a controller similar two the Wiimote’s nunchuck and wearing a headset with a small display – it could be a camera control unit, but the cameras appear to be fixed, or perhaps it is another means of moving the vehicle.

[H/T Susumu @ Surveillance to Go Nowhere]

[EDIT: I picked up the magazine today. Here are some key details:

  • The featured unit is able to move around without human control in addition to computer and man-portable controls (the three
  • The Jimny is fitted with front- and rear-mounted sensors. Mounted on the roof are a front-facing night-vision camera and FLIR among a series of other unspecified sensors. Another pole-mounted camera is able to rotate on two axes. A GPS and INS (Inertial Navigation System) are mounted on the roll-bar, along with another camera to watch the rear of the vehicle. Another camera is mounted in place of the rear view mirror for a cockpit view.
  • The current vehicle is controlled over the mobile telephone cell network.
  • The man-portable system on display in the image above is 15-16 kg in weight, heavier than a standard field radio. It is capable of moving the vehicle in the field in place of the standard computer system.  The controller is a single analogue stick similar to that found on a Wii nunchuck.
  • With its small size, two units could fit inside a CH-47 Chinook for transportation.
  • Research into Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) began in 2009, with testing beginning in 2011.
  • I can move at 60 km/h but is restricted to 30 km/h for testing/safety purposes.
  • It is clearly just a testbed rather than an end-product, similar to the ATD fighter also under development at TRDI. The technologies on display might make it into future vehicles.

The article in SAT also shows a range of smaller remote-controlled drones for infantry work, most of which being of the exploratory or bomb-disposal variety. However, one little robot caught my eye: the Hand-Thrown Reconnaissance Robot, a small softball-sized device that can be thrown and controlled by a small PSP-sized screen and controller.

One hand-thrown drone on display in 2010

One hand-thrown drone on display in 2010 (Source: Robonable)

TRDI have developed several such devices with weights between 3 kg and 670g. The one shown above was developed by NEC. With 20-30 minutes of battery time, they can be used to scout out a building before infantry forces enter. Greater awareness in combat is particularly important for close-quarters. Knowing whether you face a threat behind the next door or not could save lives.

Exciting stuff.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
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