UGV and critical infrastructure protection: facilities of special importance for security and defence 


By Mr. Zvonko Orehovec, External Expert, DOK-ING, Croatia


Natural and technological accidents, terrorism, the existence of CBRN weapons, the selection of industries, warehouses, transport systems, communication, and other critical infrastructures, as well as other objects of special importance that are military and terrorist targets, are the source of potential contemporary threats with extreme conditions in which any action with human crews is limited, even impossible, in time and space. 

Unmanned multifunctional systems with remote control and autonomous features are imposed as one of the best responses to the protection of critical infrastructure (CI) and objects of special importance (OSI) in extreme conditions.  

Based on its own experience from the Homeland War, DOK-ING offered an efficient response to the identified gap, developing unmanned systems for operation in extreme conditions, hand-in-hand with doctrinal settings, standards, tactics, and use procedures. 

Advantages of using UGV in the protection of CI and OSI 

An unmanned ground vehicle for the protection of CI and OSI allows the end-user to work in extremely hot zones, in conditions where people’s health and lives are threatened. Compared to the existing solutions on the market, vehicles for CI protection should be: 

a) Multipurpose (for different users) and multifunctional (for protection against extreme environmental conditions). 

b) Modular, with independent tools, accessories, sensors, and devices, with the possibility of installing different types, models, and manufacturers according to the end-users wishes. 

c) Self-sufficient: in addition to the logistics and transport vehicles in which the Command-and-Control Centre (CoC) is located, it represents a self-sufficient, independent kit for quick interventions and the first response to crisis situations in extreme conditions. 

This concept, strongly supported by DOK-ING’s solutions, significantly reduces procurement, storage and maintenance costs and makes the service more accessible and affordable in several ways: fewer vehicles, lower maintenance, and a smaller team/crew. 

With the intention of UGVs being a response to contemporary threats to CI and OSI to defense in a broader sense, they are intended to operate: 

a) In industrial zones possessing toxic industrial CBRN substances (chemical industry, nuclear plants, energy, etc.) and their warehouses in case of technological accidents or incidents caused by military and terrorist attacks. 

b) In zones of primary CBR contamination and zones with high rates of ionizing radiation doses, high concentrations of CBR agents. 

c) In zones of CBR terrorism or threats thereof, as well as in zones of conventional terrorism. 

d) As a convoy protection system, placing the UGV-CBRN at the head of the convoy in radio range. 

e) In naval, air and land bases during technical and technological incidents or immediate enemy action. 

f) In civilian, military and police warehouses of mines and explosives, ammunition, weapons, equipment, and energy sources warehouses. 

g) Including other situations when first responders are in danger. 


Performance of the above tasks significantly contributes to the interoperability and compatibility in the field of protection of CI and OSI in a broader sense. It unifies all specialist actions – tasks that must be performed by specialized units and first responders in the intervention zone. 

All specialist actions are monitored and recorded by several cameras in multiple spectral areas, and all data from sensors, detectors and identifiers are collected, analyzed, and, if necessary, distributed to interested commands and headquarters in real-time. 

The innovative elements of UGV protection of CI and OSI in existing operational and technical solutions are as follows: 

a) Removal of obstacles in the way of intervention by lifting and pushing using a blade and gripper as the front tools. 

b) The ability to detect physical characteristics of the environment, human survival conditions, as well as system operation and survival conditions. 

c) System hybridization with the possibility of switching the operation mode from diesel to battery mode where needed: absence of oxygen, extremely high temperature, silent mode to listen for victims. 

d) Inspection and monitoring of places and sources of danger, survival and survivor zones, and data collection for the needs of the command, crisis headquarters and members of intervention teams. 

e) “Real-time” collection, processing, and distribution of data to headquarters and command via CoC. 

f) The fire extinguishing system with its water tank or connecting to a hydrant is intended for extinguishing all types of fires and neutralizing clouds of vapors, aerosols, and dust with TIM and CBR materials. 

g) System for CBR decontamination integrated into the superstructure housing, together with water tank and mixer; cartridges for remote dosing; high-pressure pump and water preheating system; exits for decontamination of horizontal surfaces, decontamination of first responder personnel, and nozzles for decontamination with high-pressure washing and decontaminant application on a robotic arm for decontamination of facilities and equipment. 

h) System for maintaining the temperature and storing water above zero using electric heaters. 

i) System for self-decontamination and decontamination of the platform and superstructure is intended for partial self-decontamination of the UGV before exiting the contamination zone and cooling the system during its operation in high temperatures and zones of open fires. 

j) The robotic arm with effectors on its front part is intended for grasping and lifting objects of lesser weight, removing and/or breaking through obstacles to enable spot CR detection and take CBRe samples. 

k) System for sampling gaseous, liquid, and solid samples consists of sampling tubes placed in a transport box, a tool for accepting the tubes attached to a robotic arm, and dedicated control software. 

l) The UGV management system can have three tiers: service operating in the visual range of the operator; a portable platform management system with integrated video surveillance; the control system from the CoC (mobile – vehicle or stationary – CI). 

Respecting the aforementioned doctrinal approach, DOK-ING raises technological boundaries to a higher level with all solutions, where UGV, in addition to performing a whole series of multi-sectoral physical tasks, simultaneously becomes a tool for creating situational awareness. 

The advantages of introducing UGV for the protection of CI and OSI are multiple: 

1) The vehicle crew is outside the danger zone, and the resistance to extreme conditions enables prompt entry of the UGV into the danger zone, which shortens the intervention time and reduces the duration and intensity of the incident, and, thus, the level of damage to the CI and OSI. 

2) The workload of the members of the first response and their psychophysical degradation and the degradation of means and equipment is reduced. 

3) By reducing the duration and intensity of an incident with extreme environmental conditions along with the release of CBR and TIM, the contamination zone is reduced, and with it, CI and OSI degradation, as well as the need for individual and collective protection, decontamination, relocation of units and evacuation of civilians. 

4) The number of victims of the incident, the burden on healthcare and the need to avoid the dangers of CBR and TIM are reduced. 

5) The logistical burden is reduced. 

6) Operational readiness is maintained.


The war in Ukraine highlighted all the unscrupulousness of modern warfare, in which modern long-range missiles, artillery, and unmanned air and aviation systems erase the border of the front, the lines of conflict and make the entire country one big front, a zone of conflict. This opens up the possibility of attacking targets that are not within the reach of the front and is important for defence for many military and non-military reasons, including the psycho-social effect on the population with the aim of destroying the will to fight and creating resistance to the continuation of warfare. These targets primarily include elements of CI and OSI. 

UGV protecting CI and OSI cannot prevent an accident caused by anthropogenic or natural causes, and in particular, not one caused by enemy war or terrorist activities. However, UGVs can certainly operate in zones of extreme environmental conditions, which, in addition to those listed in the text, also imply their use in conditions when enemy activity is still ongoing. This reduces the intervention time and enables continuous operation regardless of environmental conditions, contributing to faster rehabilitation and reduced damage to infrastructure facilities. 

DOK-ING solutions fulfil all the performances mentioned above and, thus, become the first such UG systems on the market that simultaneously protect members of intervention units, help commanders in timely and high-quality decision-making, and protect the civilian population and the environment by intervening without delays. 

About the Author

Zvonko Orehovec Military Academy of NBC Defense finished in Belgrade. Post-graduation, Master of Science study, and doctorate’s degree study in physical and radiochemistry finished in Faculty of Natural Science and Mathematics, University of Zagreb, Croatia. Military carrier finished as a full colonel. His current position is a professor at the University of Applied Science Velika Gorica and Secures Pula. With all his professional knowledge, experience & skills, Mr Orehovec has been DOK-ING’s strategic advisor for many years. He is an author of more than 90 scientific and professional papers and books.

*All photos are property of DOK-ING

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