SafeCon - Safe semi-autonomous convoying

Use of unmanned self-guided vehicles to minimise the exposure of supply convoy personnel to life-threatening situations. 

This project aims at developing an autonomous vehicle to safely and reliably guide supply and rescue convoys in hazardous areas. These can entail travelling over long, familiar but unsafe routes between military outposts in the context of peace-keeping missions undertaken by the Austrian Federal Army or zones that for safety reasons can no longer be entered by civil relief organisations. The main problem in such zones is the potential danger to life caused by old mines in the case of foreign deployments or by avalanches or landslides resulting from ever more frequent natural disasters.

At the moment convoy personnel are dependent on specially armoured modules for protection, but this additional equipment is very expensive and provides only limited effectiveness, and the considerable additional weight severely reduces the payload. In natural disasters the usual approach is to set up air bridges that are implemented with the aid of civil or military helicopters. However, this is a very expensive solution which also depends heavily on the availability of aircraft and above all the weather situation - a variable that is difficult to predict for planning purposes.

The project aims at developing a technology that should make it possible to safely and reliably guide a supply convoy consisting of a mixture of manned and unmanned vehicles from a starting point to a destination point along a familiar route. This has the advantage of significantly reducing the number of people travelling with the convoy. The majority of vehicles are autonomous, unmanned and lacking in further protection, which means that they can also carry a much greater payload. If such a vehicle is destroyed by a mine or landslide, it would be expensive, but no human lives would be lost. The challenge for the project team is the fact that such a convoy can be on the move at any time of the day and night, so the solution has to be capable of withstanding any weather condition. This means that the autonomous transport vehicles have to be fitted with a correspondingly reliable sensor system that works not only under ideal ambient conditions but also under adverse conditions (poor weather, mishaps). Furthermore, the convoy vehicles must also be coordinated so as to be capable of forming a convoy and to flexibly respond to changes in the situation, for example, following the breakdown of one vehicle.

Facts:

  • Project start: January  2011
  • Project duration: 3 years
  • Funding: the project is funded within the security research support program KIRAS by the Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Innovation und Technologie (federal ministry for transport, innovation and technology)
  • Coordination: FH Technikum Wien
  • Partners: Federal Ministry of Defence and Sports, Vienna University of Technology, Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles Österreich GesmbH, NOVOTECH Elektronik GmbH