Military Uses for Articulating Arms

Part
01
of three
Part
01

Articulating Arms: Military Use

Three specific uses for articulating arms by the U.S. military are remote control robots for IED detection, laser measuring systems, and computer and monitor mounts. Details are below.

MARCbot IV-N

  • The MARCbot IV-N is a military vehicle used by the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy to investigate improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
  • This vehicle uses an "articulated arm to maneuver a camera into position to confirm or deny a suspected IED."
  • It is an unmanned vehicle and does not include a manipulator arm or gripper to remove an IED.
  • The ability to use a remote controlled vehicle to confirm or deny the presence of an IED limits military personnel's exposure to potentially hostile environments.
  • Both daytime and nighttime missions are supported as the camera includes low-light and LED array function.
  • The camera can be raised up to three feet and extended by 1.2 feet to fully inspect containers from distances greater than 100 meters.

Faro Laser Tracker

  • The Faro Laser Tracker is a portable coordinate measuring machine (CMM) used by the U.S. Army for repairs to combat vehicles.
  • In conjunction with software, the portable CMM uses "point probing with laser sights and robotic arms... to create a 'point cloud' of the area being checked."
  • The articulating arm of the device allows it to "perform dimensional analysis or geometric dimensions and tolerance measurements."
  • CMMs are often used with Stryker vehicles because they have unique dimensions that other vehicles do not have.
  • The machines are also used for quality checks and to place large equipment, but their primary use is to measure "anything from a vehicle hull to a small component with accuracy to thousandths of an inch."
  • Other CMMs have been used to "evaluate the effectiveness of the body armor in standardized tests," as the CMM measures how far a projectile has penetrated military armor.

Monitor and Computer Displays

  • Articulating arms are often used in the military for monitors and computer displays in vehicles.
  • Monitors and computer displays are mounted in vehicles to allow operators to see outside the vehicles without windows.
  • There are articulating arm mounts designed specifically for aircraft environments, which include military retrofit aircraft.
  • Laptop mounts are among the most common uses of articulated arms in the military.

Research Strategy

Articulated arms are typically used in military armored and unarmored vehicles for IED detection and removal. This use was already documented in our original findings, so we did not repeat it here. However, by expanding our time frame, we found a different vehicle that allows military personnel to mount a camera to an articulating arm and view an area remotely. While this is often used for IED detection, it can also be used for a variety of other purposes that would normally put military personnel in danger. Therefore, since it varies slightly from the example used in our original research, we decided to use it here. We then went on to search for two other military uses of articulating arms, specifically for armored or unarmored vehicles. To conduct this search, we first looked for mention of vehicle attachments in military publications like Army.mil, NIST, Military Times, and others. While we found some references to non-vehicle uses for articulating arms, there were no uses identified other than IED detection and removal.

We turned our attention to government publications and contracts that we hoped would detail the use of articulating arms on military vehicles. Sources such as Defense.gov, DOD.Defense.gov, USA.gov, and others were searched for companies that provide articulating arms to the government with the hopes that we would uncover different uses. Unfortunately, the only use we found for vehicles was again IED detection. There were some mentions of articulating laser measurement systems and monitor mounts, but since those were not specific to armored or unarmored vehicles, we initially rejected them.

Our third strategy was to search reputable media sources to see if any articles had been written on articulating arm use in the military. We examined Forbes, Time, Readers' Digest, New York Times, and others, but we only found articles on the same uses we had already discovered in other sources. At this point, we determined that the military primarily uses articulating arms on vehicles for IED detection and removal purposes and the only other uses are for laser measuring devices and monitor and computer mounts. Therefore, we provided information on those two uses as well as the unmanned vehicle use mentioned earlier.
Part
02
of three
Part
02

Articulating Arms: Vehicle Count

The number of vehicles with articulating arms that the United States military possess could not be reliably determined given the dearth of information on the subject. The few sources that touch briefly on the subject only suggest that the United States Department of Defense is requesting billions of dollars for the modernization of the United States military's ground systems and mission support activities, the mission area categories in which articulating arms are typically used.

Helpful Findings

  • The reports on the global articulated arm market that The Market Reports, Industry Research, Market Reports World, Market Aspect, Research Reports World, Global Info Research, Market Research Place, and Market Intellica are offering suggest that the biggest users of articulated arms are the industrial manufacturing, industrial equipment, automotive, electrical and electronics, aerospace, medical, and power generation industries, and that the military account for only a small portion of the market.
  • Articles and pages published by the Albany Herald, the United States Army, and the George Mason University suggest that, as far as the military is concerned, articulating arms are used in ground vehicles for defeating improvised explosive devices and mines, detecting and neutralizing explosive hazards to clear routes, and maneuvering into corrosion-prone spaces that are hard to reach.
  • The Marine Depot Maintenance Command (MDMC) announced in September 2019 the completed upgrade of the Buffalo Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles of the Marines. These vehicles are each equipped with an articulating arm. The MDMC, however, did not disclose how many these vehicles are.
  • In fiscal years 2016-2018, the United States Army supported numerous Operation Needs Statements (ONSs) for Mine-Protection Vehicle Family (MPVF) vehicles. Nineteen ONSs covering around 500 MPVF vehicles were supported in said period. These MPVF vehicles are equipped with an articulating arm that can remotely inspect a potential explosive hazard.
  • In 2017, it was reported that the Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight of the Department of Defense commissioned the students of George Mason University's Department of Mechanical Engineering to develop an unmanned system that can maneuver into spaces that are hard to reach and report on corrosion depth and size. The vehicle that the students built was a tracked vehicle equipped with an articulating arm.
  • The Heritage Foundation, Global Firepower, and Statista all provide some details about the vehicle fleet size of the United States military, but the number of vehicles with articulating arms could not be reliably determined.
  • For fiscal year 2019, the United States Department of Defense has requested a budget of $15.9 billion for the modernization of its ground systems, a budget of $66.8 billion for the modernization of its mission support activities, and a budget of $10.0 billion for the modernization of its command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) systems.
  • The military segment of the global unmanned ground vehicle market, which, by payload, can be categorized into sensors, radars, lasers, cameras, motor encoders, articulated arms, GPS antennas, and others, is expected to grow the fastest during the period 2018-2025. Driving this growth is the rise in automation in the following military applications: intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), combat support, and transportation.

Research Strategy

To determine the number of vehicles with articulating arms that the United States military possess, we began by verifying whether market research firms, government agencies, organizations, or media outlets have published reports or articles on the articulating arms market, which we assumed is the same as the articulated arms market given the example that was provided.
There is a possibility that these market reports contain an estimate of the desired number, so we decided to start our research by consulting these market reports.

This initial strategy led us to a number of reports on the articulated arms market, including those offered by The Market Reports, Industry Research, Market Reports World, Market Aspect, Research Reports World, Global Info Research, Market Research Place, and Market Intellica. Unfortunately, these reports do not provide any insight about the United States military's fleet of vehicles with articulating arms. All the reports are paywalled, and the portion of the market allocated to the military could not be ascertained given the way the market is segmented.

Since our first strategy produced very limited results, we proceeded to examine the website, reports, publications, and databases of the United States Department of Defense. Though the Department of Defense is unlikely to disclose granular data such as the size of its vehicle fleet with articulating arms, there is an off chance that it has shared some high-level details about its vehicle fleet, details that provide some degree of transparency but do not put the country's security and safety at risk. We were, however, unable to find any information about vehicles with articulating arms in the department's disclosures. We only saw the department's latest report on "program acquisition cost by weapon system." This report provides the breakdown of the department's requested funding for Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs) into the following mission area categories: aircraft and related systems, C4I systems, ground systems, missile defense programs, missiles and munitions, shipbuilding and maritime systems, space-based systems, science and technology, and mission support activities.

We then shifted our attention to the military's vehicle fleet with the hope that information on this fleet will lead us to some clues about the number of vehicles with articulating arms. This change in tactic led us to details about the strength or power of the country's military and the size of the military's vehicle fleet, such as those shared by The Heritage Foundation, Global Firepower, and Statista.

Finally, since we were able to gather some information about the military's vehicle fleet, we attempted to identify the types of vehicles in which articulating arms are typically installed. Based on articles and pages published by the Albany Herald, the United States Army, and the George Mason University, it appears that articulating arms are, in most cases, installed in ground vehicles. This information, however, is not sufficient for us to triangulate the number of vehicles with articulating arms that the United States military possess. The United States Department of Defense understandably does not readily disclose detailed data about its vehicle fleet. Contacting the department directly for the vehicle count may be necessary.
Part
03
of three
Part
03

Articulating Arms: Manufacturers

Three of the top manufacturers of articulating arms for the United States military are Faro Technologies, Intuitive, and L3 Harris Technologies.

L3 Harris Technologies

Intuitive

Faro Technologies

Research Strategy

To identify the top U.S. manufacturers of articulating arms for the U.S. military, we searched for industry reports for the articulated arms industry and also for the unmanned ground vehicles market as these were the two major industries that have products associated with articulating arms. Furthermore, we analyzed the list of top players provided by the reports to find companies with United States origin who are in contract with the U.S. military.
After an extensive search through the public domain for articulated arms-related news articles and publications, company websites, the U.S. military database, and associated industry reports we were only able to identify one articulating arms product manufactured by L3 Harris Technologies and Intuitive for the United States military.

First, we searched through the website of both companies for a list of products and services rendered to the United States military. We searched through sections such as the company products and services, business segments, and news publications and press releases. After an extensive search, we were only able to identify the products mentioned in the research as part of their ties with the United States military.

Next, we thoroughly searched through the website of the United States government for news publications and press releases, funding programs, partnerships, and technological developments between the United States military and L3 Harris Technologies or Intuitive. Similarly, our search through the military database revealed that L3 Harris Technologies makes the Buffalo Mine-Protected Clearance Vehicle (MPCV) for the United States military while they (U.S. military) procured the da Vinci Xi Surgical System from Intuitive.

Lastly, we scoured through the public domain for third party news reports, publications, industry analysis or development between the U.S. military and L3 Harris Technologies or Intuitive. After an extensive search, most of the reports identified either contained details of the products we already found or are not related to the United States military. We, therefore, concluded that the two products we have identified for both companies are the only articulating arms products manufactured by L3 Harris Technologies or Intuitive for the United States military.
Sources
Sources

From Part 02