BlogApril 4, 2024

Powering Next-Gen Rugged Industrial Robotics

April 4, 2024

Autonomous systems are becoming increasingly prevalent across a large proportion of commercial industry, and the requirement for industrial rugged solutions are only increasing as technology becomes more accessible.

Leading Autonomy with Advanced Rugged Computing Solutions

The use of autonomous systems for commercial applications is by no means new. Agriculture, law enforcement, medicine, manufacturing, railways and emergency services are just some examples of commercial industries that are embracing the use of autonomy; this could be a drone carrying out surveys of a crop field or a garbage truck employing AI-enhanced vision to pick up waste bins.

According to management consultancy McKinsey, by 2027 it is expected that automated systems will account for 25% of capital spending for industrial companies, largely down to the efficiencies, output quality and uptime benefits that introducing autonomy into manufacturing processes brings.

What is revolutionizing this market is the rise of autonomy underpinned by more accessible AI technologies. Industry has increasingly become savvy to the benefits of AI within autonomous applications and has already identified ways in which autonomy and automation can be incorporated to bring about efficiencies and make carrying out tasks more timely and safe.

The sector is embracing the opportunities that come with autonomy and advanced automation that have already been realized in government departments such as the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, but the difference is that commercial industries need it smaller and cheaper and quite often in greater numbers.

Size and weight are often critical for commercial applications, which means that industrial computer solutions have to be smaller and lighter. Moreover, many businesses just don’t have the gargantuan budgets that the military and national security agencies do, so systems also have to be affordable. All of this while still being able to provide powerful AI-driven capabilities.

Systel has been monitoring this market for a number of years now, and work is well underway to meet these emerging commercial and industrial requirements using our long pedigree of US-based rugged computer design and manufacture.

Commercial Industry Needs

For industrial applications fully rugged computing that meets strict US DoD military standards is not necessarily required, but many commercial markets still need a computer that will meet ‘industrial rugged’ standards. This is because computers used in industrial applications will often face demanding conditions whether in a factory or out ‘in the field’.

Autonomous robots working on an assembly line will need to operate for hours, days or weeks at a time, so reliability is key, especially as the computers will be constantly exposed to vibration and other demanding conditions. Garbage trucks, meanwhile, will be operating outside in all kinds of challenging climates, so environmental and dust protection will be paramount.

As well as being industrial rugged, data processing is also a key consideration for these applications. Industrial autonomous systems utilize sensors to provide data and thus situational awareness for them to operate (which is applicable to both stationary and mobile applications) and this data needs to be rapidly processed by a powerful computer.

Furthermore, machine learning – a subset of AI – is furthering the efficiency that AI-powered autonomy can bring. Machine learning provides computers with the ability to adapt their programming to learn how to carry out a task in an increasingly efficient way time after time, reducing the burden on operators.

And with more powerful AI comes the need for more powerful processing to run these algorithms. One processor that is dominating this sphere is the Nvidia Jetson Orin family of modules, which are designed to deliver AI for robotics.

The commercial sector is now very aware that the Orin is leading the way for AI robotics processing, and this is becoming a prerequisite for industrial computers used for autonomous applications, as it is world’s most powerful embedded AI computing engine.

Systel has been delivering Nvidia processors for many years now, and Orin is firmly placed in our portfolio, so we can incorporate it in a number of our products.

Moreover, akin to the military, the commercial industry requires solutions that meet demanding conditions and have great performance, but it requires these capabilities at a lower cost point, so this needs to be considered when making any onboard system for a commercial autonomous system.

Form factor is also a priority – the real estate on a small drone that surveys a crop field is far lower than a large military drone carrying out ISR, for example – so scaling is also key.

Systel’s Advantage

Systel has a long and proud history in delivering rugged computers for military and security applications, and it is this experience that we are applying to the commercial autonomy market.

We develop market-leading embedded computers that provide powerful performance in small form factors, and we have been busy developing solutions that meet the specific requirements of the commercial/industrial autonomy sector.

Our Kite Strike II is an embedded computer that offers unparalleled performance, delivering a leap forward in edge-deployed processing technology and capabilities, including the Jetson AGX Orin SOM (system on module).

Sparrow-Strike, meanwhile, is an ultra-small-form-factor (USFF) rugged edge computing solution designed using a Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) with a modular chassis and architecture design. This can integrate either the NVIDIA Jetson Orin NX edge AI SOM or an Intel x86-based processor, and provides the performance required for emerging autonomous and uncrewed missions in an ultra-compact and lightweight form factor.

New to the market is our Badger embedded solution. Badger is a next-gen industrial rugged autonomy compute solution designed specifically for the commercial. It is an USFF solution based on a COTS design, and integrates the Orin NX SOM. It features robust IO including CAN, GPIO, WiFi, and GMSL, and is industrial rugged with a wide operating temperature range and IP67 sealed. Moreover, it sits at a cost point more suited to the commercial market.

Learn More About The Badger

Badger: Pioneering Commercial Autonomy Computing

Badger is crucial for commercial autonomy computing and was designed to transform the industry with its design. Leveraging Systel’s extensive experience in providing reliable, mission-enabling technologies for military applications, Badger scales this expertise to meet the emerging needs of the commercial market. It’s a game changer, set to debut at AUVSI XPONENTIAL. Visit us at booth 4924 to get an exclusive preview before Badger hits the roadshow, showcasing its capabilities across various locations. Stay tuned for its official launch, coming soon in 2024.

While Systel has a range of products tailored for the commercial/industrial autonomy market, including the eagerly anticipated Badger set for launch in 2024, we remain committed to our role as a design house capable of adapting our solutions to meet evolving requirements.

We pride ourselves on understanding the markets we sell into and leading on rugged computer design, but are always open to working with our customers on tailoring our solutions to their needs.

We are a custom design house with a solution-orientated ethos, and delivering the best capabilities to our customers is what we do best, so get in touch to discuss your requirements and see how we can help.