The Unmanned Combat Ground Vehicle (UCGV) is an unmanned ground vehicle with a suite of remotely operated weapons (current international conventions do not permit the use of autonomous weapons, even though the technology is readily available). The deployment of UCGVs will greatly enhance the battlefield effectiveness and Angling of dozer blade for snow clearance generate force-multiplier effects. It is projected that in the immediate future, the role of humans will be greatly reduced in the war front and the actual fighting will be done by UCGVs and similar machines.

The deployment of UGVs will not only protect trained human lives in dangerous battlefield situations but also a variety of potential UGV applications for military operations can significantly increase mission performance, enhance combat effectiveness, and ensure personnel safety. The deployment of UGVs enable standoff operations and thereby reduce or remove operator risks in highly stressful and dangerous environments, such as active minefields and areas of explosives or Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) hazards. The diverse operational roles a UGV can perform include active combat roles, operations in dangerous or contaminated environments (mine fields and nuclear-biological– chemical-contaminated areas), disposal of UneXploded Ordnances (UXO) and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), utility and logistic support roles, etc.

As a proactive measure, CVRDE has drawn up future plans for the design and development of a tracked UCGV in a progressive manner through three phases. The first two phases will develop a UCGV on the existing BMP-II tracked vehicles. The weapons systems shall include a Remote Controlled Weapons Station (RCWS), a soft kill Active Protection System (APS) and a medium power Directed Energy Weapon (DEW) system. A new high speed tracked vehicle platform shall be specifically developed platform shall be specifically developed for the new UCGV in the third phase.

In addition to the RCWS with enhanced fire power, this new UCGV is expected to have a hard kill APS, high power DEW, SAMs, attitude control system and active camouflage.

UGV Roadmap for CVRDE

Though the current technologies are based on tele-operation and limited autonomy, the technologies developed by CVRDE can be extended further for the development of UGVs capable of undertaking more complex missions in dynamic and uncertain battlefield scenarios. Based on the future battlefield scenarios and the increasing pace of technological developments, it is projected that UGV technologies will move from the current tele-operated UGVs to fully autonomous network centric UGVs by 2050. Accordingly, the UGV developments in CVRDE will also migrate to more evolved UGVs capable of complex missions in uncertain battlefield conditions.

The missions undertaken by the UGV will also shift from a passive logistics/ support role to highly active weaponised combat missions. Combat UGVs will initially have only defensive capabilities, but will rapidly evolve into a potent platform for offensive military operations deep inside the enemy territory. The future road map for UGV developments in CVRDE is also shown. Significant spinoff developments for internal security applications will also be part of the roadmap.

Current systems use varying combinations of tele-operation and assisted autonomy for the systems to follow predefined routes, automatically detecting and avoiding obstacles along that route. Future UGV applications will require the development of more powerful technologies for autonomous navigation, starting in the near term with refinement of leader-follower technologies completely autonomous operations in unstructured terrains and harsh environmental conditions. Also, advances in machine learning is essential to reduce the cognitive burden on operators, enhance efficiency of machine human interactions, and enable more advanced operations, such as manned and unmanned teaming.

Other key technology focus areas include the enhancement of high-mobility and all-terrain attributes; continued development of power train and battery technologies to support increased endurance; navigation and timing technologies that do not rely on space based signals; secure communications under Non Line of Sight conditions; automatic target classification, tracking and engagement; and operations in swarms. As the future battles will be fought predominantly by unmanned or a by a composite collaborative teams of manned-unmanned systems, countries with technological competence in this very critical field will decide the outcome of all such future armed conflicts. Faced with potentially hostile situations both inside and outside our country ranging from a fully fledged war to low intensity conflicts, CVRDE/DRDO should rigorously pursue a long term plan for the development and deployment of UGVs to guard our borders and to make our country self-sufficient in this very critical technological domain.

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