Pennsylvania Guard Soldiers Train with new Robotic System
US Army | Nov. 9, 2022
FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, PA: Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers received training Nov. 8 and 9 on a new robotic system that allows them to investigate potential hazards remotely.
Four Soldiers each from the 103rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team and 876th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team received training on the newly fielded Common Robotic System - Individual, or CRS-I.
The CRS-I is a 32-pound, tracked robot with multiple cameras and an extendable arm that is “man-packable” and can fit into a medium rucksack or an assault pack. It can be used for numerous missions, including clearing buildings, caves and other restrictive terrains and identifying enemy positions, explosives, and civilians without exposing the user to hazards.
The CRS-I includes a universal controller that may also control several other Army and Marine Corps robotic and unmanned systems.
Tyler Pierce, an instructor from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, said the CRS-I was fielded about six months ago.
Pierce said the CRSI’s cameras are much better than previous robotic systems and are what sets it apart from other similar systems. Up to six different cameras can be mounted onto the CRS-I, including thermal and infrared cameras.
“It’s a little 32-pound robot with some really good cameras built into it,” Pierce said. “If you think there’s something suspicious going on down-range, send this little robot down there. It has some good cameras to verify the probable cause or what is suspicious and get you a better idea of what’s going on.
“For what it’s meant to do, it’s a very good robot,” Pierce added. “It’s not going to interrogate obstacles or open doors, but if you just need to get eyes on something, it’s great for that.”
The first day of training consisted of classroom instruction followed by hands-on training. The second day involved each student setting up the CRS-I and navigating a course that included picking up a simulated grenade and dropping it in a box. The course had to be completed in a specific time.
“It’s very simple,” Pierce said. “We’ve had these students for a day and a half, and they’re picking it up very well.”
Among those attending the training was Cpl. Floyd Keim of Alpha Company, 103rd BEB. Heim, an Allentown, Pa, resident, said he has experience operating other unmanned vehicles, including the TALON, a similar but larger tracked robotic system used by the Army.
“This system is making the TALON look … I don’t want to say obsolete because everything has its place, but in terms of quality and overall technology, this little thing is honestly amazing,” Keim said. “The fact that it can fit in an assault pack and how easy it is to transport around, how it can be an asset to both dismounted and mounted operations and used for everything from route clearance to interrogation to clearing buildings to reconnaissance without having to risk your own people, it really is an amazing system.”
Keim agreed the CRS-I’s cameras set it apart from other systems. It is also very easy to maneuver, he said.
“The camera is the biggest thing,” Keim said. “It’s clear, it has IR (infrared) on it allowing you to detect disturbed earth and things like that, which could be potential hazards for us as Soldiers out there.”
Also attending the training was Spc. Antonio Santiago of Bravo Company, 103rd BEB. Santiago, a Philadelphia resident, said the CRS-I is a step up from the TALON, which weighs upwards of 60 pounds.
“It was just a hassle to carry it around,” Santiago said. “At the end of the day, we’re trying to protect ourselves from any potential threat, but at the same token, imagine carrying around this big hunk of metal 20 to 30 hours into a mission, whereas this little guy, we can just take wherever we want.”
Overall, Santiago said, the CRS-I is a big upgrade over other systems he’s used.
“The cameras are 100-times better,” Santiago said. “You can actually see what you’re looking at. It’s easier to use than the TALON. I would say it’s almost comparable to a video game.”