TIAX Awarded Contract to Build Scale Model of Robotic Military Bridge

U.S. Army turns to Cambridge firm to design bridge that improves military mobility and soldier safety.

TIAX today announced that it has been awarded a Phase II contract by the U.S. Army to design, develop, and build a prototype of a next generation robotic military bridge for the Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS). TIAX created initial designs for the bridge under a Phase I contract awarded in 2005.

Mobile bridges, or GDTs (Gap Defeating Technologies) as they are known in the military, are essential for land-based operations, but the current designs are bulky, difficult to transport, and require manual assistance during launch and retrieval. TIAX’s proposed automated design should be easier to transport, simpler to operate, and – most importantly – better able to keep soldiers out of harm’s way.

The military uses GDTs to transport convoys and troops across rivers, valleys, and uneven terrain, often under hostile conditions. Using its expertise in materials, automation, and structural design, TIAX plans to develop a design for a lightweight, compact, and fully-automated bridge that does not have to be manually launched and retrieved. The bridge will be built using lightweight materials, yet will be sturdy enough to support the weight of tanks and weaponry, carrying at least 30 tons across gaps that span more than 14 meters.

“We are honored to have been chosen by the U.S. Army to apply our skills and expertise to the development of this important technology that will enhance the effectiveness of Army operations and protect soldiers from harm,” said Kenan Sahin, President and Founder of TIAX.

Among the key technical challenges this project presents is creating a modular bridge platform that can be easily transported by air or land-based vehicles in the FCS fleet. Additionally, the autonomous launch and retrieval feature that the bridge must incorporate to keep soldiers safer in hostile situations requires a seamless interplay among the actuation, power, structural, and control systems to ensure a swift and safe gap crossing. Creating this seamless interplay to make a full automation possible has not yet been accomplished in any previous bridge designs.

“The knowledge gained from this project will have a broad-ranging, long-lasting impact on countless future military and civilian applications,” said Anil Mankame, TIAX program manager for this project. “We envision uses for this technology in homeland security operations and in rescue missions following natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes.”

The contract is one of a number of projects recently awarded to TIAX through the Department of Defense’s Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program. Since 2002, TIAX has been awarded numerous Phase I and Phase II contracts through the SBIR program. Established in 1982, the SBIR program funds early stage research and development at small technology companies in an effort to stimulate technological innovation, generate opportunities for small businesses to meet federal research and development needs, increase employment, foster and encourage participation in technological innovation by socially and economically disadvantaged persons, and support private-sector commercialization of technology derived from federal research and development