ERider: An in­no­va­tive ro­botic ve­hi­cle con­cept from Safran

Safran’s eRider con­cept com­bines a multi-mis­sion plat­form and drone ca­pa­bil­i­ties


In the re­cently con­cluded lead­ing de­fence trade show, Eurosatory ( June 13 to 17, 2016) in Paris, Safran show­cased the eRider ro­botic ve­hi­cle, fully re­flect­ing Safran’s re­search and in­no­va­tion strat­egy. The eRider project which was un­veiled at this show calls on Safran Elec­tron­ics & De­fense’s strong tech­nol­ogy her­itage, with ex­per­tise in the ar­chi­tec­ture of com­plex sys­tems, on­board elec­tron­ics, op­tron­ics, in­er­tial sys­tems, mis­sion plan­ning and se­cure com­mu­ni­ca­tions/C2 sys­tems.

Fol­low­ing in the wake of drones, land ro­bots are be­com­ing an oper­a­tional re­al­ity. Look­ing ahead, they will pro­vide an even more de­ci­sive ad­van­tage in terms of in­tel­li­gence, sup­port and lo­gis­tics.

Safran, the Euro­pean leader in tac­ti­cal drones, has the core com­pe­ten­cies needed to meet this new chal­lenge. In 2013, it teamed up with the French auto parts gi­ant Va­leo to de­velop to­mor­row’s mo­bil­ity so­lu­tions. The au­ton­o­mous eRider ro­bot is one of the re­sults of this team­work.

eRider is in fact a four­wheel drive, hy­brid ve­hi­cle in the light strike ve­hi­cle class, with multi-mis­sion ca­pa­bil­ity and re­con­fig­ura­bil­ity (2 seat or 4 seat). Highly ma­noeu­vrable and fea­tur­ing low ob­serv­abil­ity, the eRider can be con­ven­tion­ally driven, but it also has the in­trin­sic ca­pa­bil­i­ties needed to carry out mis­sions with par­tial or to­tal au­ton­omy. Safran’s Re­search & Tech­nol­ogy (R&T) teams called on their mul­ti­ple skills, most rep­re­sented at Eurosatory, to de­velop this new project.

A com­pre­hen­sive sys­tems ap­proach is used, en­com­pass­ing equip­ment for au­ton­o­mous op­er­a­tion and mis­sions, lead­ing to a ra­tio­nalised, ro­bust and cost-ef­fec­tive ar­chi­tec­ture that fits a wide range of plat­forms and also has ma­jor links with the auto mar­ket. Thierry Dupoux, head of R&T at Safran Elec­tron­ics & De­fense, ex­plains: “The tech­nolo­gies of­fered by Safran Elec­tron­ics & De­fense are piv­otal to au­ton­o­mous mo­bil­ity and our com­pany’s busi­ness sec­tors. Since we al­ready un­der­stand and ap­ply all crit­i­cal func­tions, land ro­bots give us a new mar­ket op­por­tu­nity, and the part­ner­ships we have al­ready formed will al­low us to cap­i­talise on cross-sec­tor syn­er­gies, while lev­er­ag­ing a num­ber of dual tech­nolo­gies.

“Safran Elec­tron­ics & De­fense wants to use the eRider con­cept to show the con­crete ad­van­tages of au­ton­o­mous plat­forms and func­tions de­ployed by armed forces, in par­tic­u­lar by analysing the im­prove­ment in oper­a­tional ef­fi­ciency and the ben­e­fits of not ex­pos­ing sol­diers to avoid­able dan­ger. This in­no­va­tive ap­proach, based on a driven ve­hi­cle, should con­sid­er­ably shrink the lo­gis­tics foot­print and the cog­ni­tive work­load on the plat­form, mak­ing it pos­si­ble to grad­u­ally in­tro­duce au­ton­omy func­tions. The over­all sys­tems ap­proach be­ing pro­posed should sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove con­ti­nu­ity be­tween mounted and dis­mounted in­fantry (as her­alded by the FELIN sys­tem and ve­hi­cles in the Scor­pion pro­gramme, while paving the way to real col­lab­o­ra­tive ac­tions).

“It’s also worth not­ing that this project uses the same ap­proach as the Pa­troller pro­gramme, mean­ing the ‘dro­ni­sa­tion’ of a pi­loted plat­form, which in­cor­po­rates the crit­i­cal mo­bil­ity and mis­sion func­tions of­fered by Safran Elec­tron­ics & De­fense. From the pro­duc­tion stand­point, we could draw a par­al­lel with the Pa­troller Clus­ter con­sor­tium. On the eRider, we have part­ner­ships not only with ma­jor cor­po­ra­tions like PSA and Va­leo, but also with in­no­va­tive small busi­nesses, as well as academia, es­pe­cially the Ecole de Mines engi­neer­ing school. The dual tech­nolo­gies in­volved fall within the scope of the road map for the au­ton­o­mous civil ve­hi­cle and mil­i­tary land robotics, which en­tail their own re­stric­tions that im­pact the de­sign.”

Of course, all that still leaves the cen­tral ques­tion of how to de­ploy a new-gen­er­a­tion ro­bot in a theatre of op­er­a­tions. The link be­tween tech­nolo­gies and troop ex­pec­ta­tions is there­fore a key to the de­sign ap­proach used by Safran.

“Any new sys­tem con­cept must be the re­sult of an on­go­ing dialog with our part­ners – French de­fence pro­cure­ment agency DGA and the armed forces – to of­fer ma­ture, ro­bust and com­pet­i­tive so­lu­tions that per­fectly meet their oper­a­tional re­quire­ments,” says Thierry Dupoux. “Our eRider project must there­fore pro­vide con­crete in­puts, and above all build up the ex­pe­ri­ence that is needed for to­mor­row’s pro­grammes. The cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of ro­bots is ded­i­cated to spe­cific mis­sions, and most are still re­motely con­trolled.

“Safran is not seek­ing to re­place these prod­ucts; we are us­ing a com­ple­men­tary ap­proach, in­spired by the auto in­dus­try, which en­tails the ra­tio­nal and grad­ual in­tro­duc­tion of au­ton­omy func­tions. This ap­proach can be ap­plied to any modern trans­port, in­tel­li­gence or com­bat plat­form.”

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