US boffins have unleashed a $35m robotic vehicle designed to go into battle and "function on its own".
The scientists from Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) said that the 6.5 ton Crusher is a robust, unmanned vehicle that can function autonomously in challenging off-road terrain.
The project is known by the acronym UPI, which stands for Unmanned PerceptOR Integration.
Since Crusher and its Spinner predecessor do not have to accommodate human crews, their designs offer unequalled ruggedness, mobility and payload-carrying capacity compared to manned vehicles in their weight class.
Crusher's hull is made from high-strength aluminium tubes and titanium nodes protected by a steel skid plate that can absorb shocks from impacts with obstacles such as rocks or tree stumps.
Its suspension is designed to enable it to move smoothly over extremely rough terrain and overcome obstacles like large ditches, man-made barriers or piles of boulders.
Crusher can carry more than 8,000lbs of payload and armour. Electric motors embedded in each of the vehicle's six wheels are powered with a hybrid system that uses a turbo diesel generator to recharge its batteries. Top speed is currently 26 miles per hour.
NREC researchers have been working with several subcontractors to develop Crusher's special attributes. Among them are Timoney Technology of Meath, Ireland, which developed the suspension; Pennsylvania-based CTC Technologies, which designed the hull; and SAFT America Battery Co, which built Crusher's lithium ion battery.
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