Navy Announces “Cutting-Edge Lab” for Robotics, Autonomous Systems

March 16th, 2012 by Erwin Gianchandani Post a comment »

Lucas, a mobile, dextrous, and social (MDS) robot, is one of many robots working in the new LASR facility. In the Damage Control for the 21st Century research project, robots like Lucas are being used to develop future firefighting capabilities for Navy ships [image courtesy OSTP].Earlier today at a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director John Holdren and Chief of Naval Research Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) opened the Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research (LASR) on its campus in Washington, DC. LASR aims “to support cutting-edge research in robotics and autonomous systems of interest to the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Department of Defense, [including] unmanned underwater vehicles, autonomous firefighting robots, and sensor networks.”

According to a post on the OSTP Blog announcing the opening:

LASR will … advance the goals of the President’s National Robotics Initiative, a multi-agency effort to strengthen U.S. leadership in robotics and to enable human-robot teams to solve important challenges in defense, space, health, and manufacturing.


The research done at LASR will work to reduce the time and cost needed to develop autonomous systems by allowing NRL’s scientists and engineers to test new technologies in realistic environments such as oceans, coasts, deserts, tropical rain forests, waterfalls, and rock walls. LASR also includes [following the link]:


  • A facility that contain the world’s largest space for real-time motion capture, improving our ability to measure and control the motion of autonomous air and ground vehicles and  monitor the movements of humans interacting with them; and
  • Electrical and machine shops that will allow researchers to “print” parts directly from electronic drawings.


LASR capitalizes on the broad multidisciplinary character of NRL, bringing together scientists and engineers from diverse backgrounds to tackle common challenges in autonomy research. Its objectives are to enable continued Navy and Department of Defense scientific leadership in autonomy and to identify opportunities for advances in future defense technology. While the LASR facility was created to support NRL research, outside collaborators on funded projects will be able to work with NRL scientists in the facility.

And from the LASR website:

[LASR] will provide specialized facilities to support highly innovative, multidisciplinary research in autonomous systems, including intelligent autonomy, sensor systems, power and energy systems, human-system interaction, networking and communications, and platforms… The Laboratory will provide unique facilities and simulated environments (littoral, desert, tropical) and instrumented reconfigurable high bay spaces to support integration of science and technology components into research prototype systems.

LASR is directed by Alan C. Schultz.

To learn more, see the OSTP Blog posting and NRL press release, and visit the LASR website.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)