Naval Research Laboratory Opens
Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research


03/16/2012 11:00 EDT - 46-12r
Contact: Donna McKinney, (202) 767-2541


The Naval Research Laboratory announces the opening of its Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research (LASR). The LASR facility will integrate science and technology components into research prototype systems and will become the nerve center for basic research that supports autonomous systems research for the Navy and Marine Corps. The ribbon cutting ceremony was held on March 16, 2012, for this new laboratory, located at NRL Washington, D.C.

Photo of ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research, located at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. The Naval Research Laboratory cut the ribbon on its Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research (LASR) on March 16, 2012. Left to right, Dr. John Montgomery, NRL's Director of Research; Dr. John P. Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; CAPT Paul Stewart, NRL's Commanding Officer; Alan Schultz, Director of LASR, and RADM Matthew Klunder, Chief of Naval Research.
(Photo: Jamie Hartman, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)
Photo showing Lucas, a Mobile, Dexterous, Social robot, and CAPT Paul Stewart, Naval Research Laboratory's commanding officer. Lucas, a Mobile, Dexterous, Social robot, and Capt. Paul Stewart, NRL's commanding officer, stand in the Prototyping High Bay in the Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research. Capt. Stewart is holding an Ascending Technologies Pelican quadrotor mini air vehicle.
(Photo: Jamie Hartman, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)
Exterior view of the Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research. Exterior view of the Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research, which was opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on March 16, 2012.
(Photo: Jamie Hartman, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

RADM Matthew Klunder, Chief of Naval Research, introduced the guest speaker at the event, Dr. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The LASR capitalizes on the broad multidisciplinary character of NRL, bringing together scientists and engineers from diverse backgrounds to tackle common challenges in autonomy research at the intersection of their respective fields. Research in unmanned and autonomous systems research is not new — NRL has been conducting innovative work in these fields since 1923. The objective of the LASR is to enable continued Navy and Department of Defense scientific leadership in autonomy and to identify opportunities for advances in future defense technology.

NRL broke ground on the LASR facility on April 8, 2010. This one-of-a-kind laboratory provides specialized facilities to support highly innovative research in intelligent autonomy, sensor systems, power and energy systems, human-system interaction, networking and communications, and platforms. LASR will support a broad range of research related to autonomous systems, from basic, to applied, and for integration across different disciplines. Some of its unique features include:

  • Prototyping High Bay, which can be used for small autonomous air and ground vehicles, and the people who work with them. This space contains the world's largest real-time motion capture volume, allowing scientists to get extremely accurate ground truth of the motion of vehicles and people, as well as allowing closed loop control of systems.
  • Littoral High Bay, which features a 45-foot by 25-foot by 5.5-foot deep pool with a wave generator capable of producing directional waves, and a slope that allows littoral environments to be recreated.
  • Desert High Bay, which contains a 40-foot by 14-foot area of sand 2.5-feet deep, and contains 18-foot-high rock walls that allow testing of robots and sensors in a desert-like environment.
  • Tropical High Bay, which is a 60-foot by 40-foot greenhouse that contains a re-creation of a southeast Asian rain forest.
  • Outdoor test range, which is a 1/3rd acre highland forest with a waterfalls, stream and pond, and terrain of differing difficulty including large boulder structures and earthen berms.
  • Electrical and machine shops, which allow prototypes to be constructed. The facility includes several types of 3D prototyping machines allowing parts to be directly created from CAD drawings. LASR also has a dedicated sensor lab that includes large environmental and altitude chambers and an anechoic chamber, as well as a power and energy lab.

Alan Schultz, who is the Director of NRL's Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence, has been selected as the first Director of NRL's LASR. Darrell King, who has previously worked as the Facilities Manager at NRL's Institute for Nanoscience, is the Facilities Manager at the LASR.

Photo showing Desert High Bay, a feature of the Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research. The Desert High Bay inside the Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research has a 40-foot by 14-foot area of sand 2-foot deep, and contains 18-foot high rock walls that allow testing of robots and sensors in a desert-like environment.
(Photo: Jamie Hartman, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)
Photo showing the Tropical High Bay in the Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research. TThe Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research has a Tropical High Bay that is a 60-foot by 40-foot greenhouse, and it contains a re-creation of a southeast Asian rain forest. In the Tropical High Bay, temperatures average 80 degrees with 80 percent humidity year round.
(Photo: Jamie Hartman, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)


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About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is the Navy's full-spectrum corporate laboratory, conducting a broadly based multidisciplinary program of scientific research and advanced technological development. The Laboratory, with a total complement of approximately 2,500 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to meet the complex technological challenges of today's world. For more information, visit the NRL homepage or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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