By Zvonko Orehovec
Colonel (Ret.) Zvonko Orehovec, Chief Technical Expert at DOK-ING, talks about remotely controlled, unmanned ground-based vehicles (UGVs) that can be used in extreme situations where the direct use of personnel is impossible or dangerous, for example in CBRNe incidents. The protection of nuclear power plants, industries, warehouses of dangerous substances, ammunition and weapons, as well as military bases from a safe distance is just a few uses of the MVC-8 Komodo.
The MVC-8 Komodo CBRNe is an unmanned, ground-based, remote-controlled, multi-purpose system capable of performing numerous tasks in extreme environmental conditions. It can be deployed for the removal of obstacles and dangerous objects, route clearance, MEDEVAC/CASEVAC, CBRNE reconnaissance and monitoring, gaseous, aerosol, liquid, and solid sampling and other forensic evidence, CBR decontamination, neutralization and disposal of toxic industrial chemicals, as well as firefighting operations. All the above missions, independently or networked with other air and ground platforms, are monitored and recorded by several detectors, sensors, cameras, and devices linked by functional and analytical software. The data are delivered in real-time to the tactical operations center, where they are processed, analyzed, and converted into information and spatial awareness for the needs of first responders, command, and headquarters. The result is a timely and complete response to the threat, protecting human lives, tangible assets, and the environment more effectively.
The MVC-8 Komodo CBRNe, ©DOK-ING
How did the need and idea to develop this capability come about?
Modern CBRNE threats often create an environment in which personnel’s direct action is limited in time and space, and intervention is delayed, or very often impossible, even calling into question the practical execution of the mission itself. Today’s technology has enabled the development of means in the form of remotely controlled systems, as well as measures and procedures for their use, creating the prerequisites to provide a prompt response to CBRNE threats without endangering members of the first response and human crews, and which reduces the CBRNE threat zone and the need for residence in such an environment.
Who are the intended users of this capability?
Direct users are military CBRNE units, CT police units, civil protection and fire brigades tasked with CBRN defense, defense against technological accidents, fires in open spaces, warehouses, and the like, and specialist teams responsible for critical infrastructure protection.
What would be the practical application of this capability?
In addition to entering the primary zone of CBRN impact (attack) to reduce the secondary emission of CBRN and TIM contaminants, Komodo is certainly invaluable in accidents similar to those that happened in Fukushima, Chornobyl, Beirut, and even in Croatia during military attacks on petrochemical industries and adjacent warehouses. I strongly believe that the protection forces (firefighters, army, civil protection, and specialist teams) in Ukraine would be glad to have the Komodo CBRNe for the protection of critical infrastructures such as nuclear power plants, chemical industries, HAZMAT warehouses, and military warehouses and bases. Komodo, as a hybrid UGV, also has its application in the protection of road and railway tunnels.
Is the machine self-sufficient, or does it need additional logistical support?
The machine can be used in two versions. One is on a transport vehicle with a trailer with a control and communication C2 level, for the means of intervention towards endangered objects or the protection of convoys against CBRNE threats. In that case, it needs logistical support, just like any other conventional CBRN unit with resources for CBRN reconnaissance, monitoring, and decontamination, namely means of transport and consumables. Another version is in stationary facilities such as industries, warehouses, bases, camps, tunnels, etc. In this case, required logistics are minimal, and the use is prompt because the operational centers of these facilities can serve as a CCC for UGVs, while required logistics narrow down to refilling used water and decontaminants.
The MVC-8 Komodo can be used on a transport vehicle with a trailer, as well as in stationary facilities, such as warehouses or bases, ©DOK-ING
Can the machine be used only for CBRNe purposes, or does it have a wider scope of action?
Yes, it can be used in all extreme situations where the direct use of personnel is impossible or dangerous. These are natural and anthropogenic accidents with, for example, open fire, high temperatures, explosions and fragmentation, collapse, high concentration of dangerous substances, and lack of oxygen.
With the autonomy of this ability and the eventual inclusion of artificial intelligence, is man replaceable or ever necessary in these tasks?
Extreme situations are so unpredictable that creating algorithms for all possibilities and substituting the cognitive abilities that a person has will be almost impossible to implement. This is especially true for situational awareness decision-making, the elements of which are based on emotional judgment.
How is it possible for the machine to remain functional in hot zones or other extreme situations?
Komodo can operate in such an environment because it is ballistically protected, has an active defense system against open fires and high temperatures, a hybrid drive, a decontamination and fire extinguishing system, and a wide range of cameras and sensors providing it with the ability to be situationally aware.
How long can the machine perform tasks before it needs to return to base?
The time of possible action depends on the type of threat. The diesel generator’s autonomy is 6 hours. The battery block’s, without recharging it with the diesel generator, is 25 minutes (when it is necessary to work in an atmosphere without oxygen or in high temperatures). This matches the water tank capacity, which can be used for thermal self-protection by spraying the water, also of about 25 minutes. This is used for protection from ambient temperatures over 300°C.
What capabilities set this machine apart from currently available and similar capabilities being developed or already developed?
The machine is remotely controllable and multifunctional, and in extreme conditions, it can perform several complex tasks such as removing obstacles, surveying the condition of CBRN/HAZMAT detection, reconnaissance, monitoring, decontamination, firefighting, self-decontamination, and self-protection. This sets it apart from other systems currently available on the market. In addition, when remote action is not required, it can be used like any conventional decontamination system.
How does the end user have insight into the situation the machine is in during operation?
The machine has over ten cameras (for driving and working with tools), a thermal camera, a zoom camera, GPS, LIDAR, a radiological detector, a CWA/TIC detector, an explosive gas detector, a series of heat and oxygen sensors and a sampling system. All this data flows in real-time to the operator interface in the control and communication cabin (C2), and by integrating meteorological data from the station located in the control cabin, a high level of situational awareness is achieved, with the possibility of predicting future developments of the emergency.
What are the key benefits of having this ability?
There are many benefits, perhaps the most important being:
- the vehicle crew is outside the danger zone, resistance to extreme conditions enables prompt deployment of the UGV, shortening the intervention time, reducing the incident duration and intensity, and thus the level of potential damage;
- the first responders’ workload, their psycho-physical degradation, and the degradation of means and equipment is reduced;
- by reducing the duration and intensity of an incident involving extreme environmental conditions along with CBR and TIM release, the contamination zone is reduced and, with it, CI and OSI degradation, the need for individual and collective protection, decontamination, relocation of units and evacuation of civilians;
- the number of victims in the incident is reduced, and by extension the burden on the healthcare system and the need to face CBR/TIM contamination threats;
- the logistical burden is reduced;
- operational readiness is maintained.
Dr. Zvonko Orehovec, Chief Technical Expert at DOK-ING, ©DOK-ING
Is the machine interoperable with existing components designed to operate in extreme situations?
The machine integrates the most commercially known detection, sensors, decontamination, and firefighting systems, making them remotely controllable, which means that they are compatible with all commercial conventional means of CBRN defense. In addition, the machine is also interoperable because it meets the criteria of tactics, standards, and procedures of all CBRN defense operators.
Given the current global challenges and crises, what are the potential circumstances in which this capability could be deployed?
Once again, I am convinced that now the Ukrainian defense forces would appreciate having Komodo to help protect their nuclear power plants, their industries, warehouses of dangerous substances, ammunition and weapons, and their military bases. All this while operating from safe shelters.
Col. (Ret.) Zvonko Orehovec PhD is chief technical expert at DOK-ING. He ended his military carrier as a full colonel in 2005. He has a doctorate degree in physical chemistry and his current position is Professor of University of Applied Science in Velika Gorica, Croatia. Dr. Orehovec is the author of more than 90 scientific and professional papers, books, scripts, a lecturer of 12 scientific meeting proceedings, Co-director of the International ASSISTEX I Exercise and the CBMTS World Congress – Industry Series and CSCM World Congress of CBRNe Applied Science & Consequence Management. As an external associate-expert of DOK-ING, he is the author of the concept of several special UGVs, such as UGV CBRN, and military engineering solutions.