Meet The Pentagon’s Next Autonomous Dune Buggy For US Special Forces

For over 5-years, the United States special operations forces (SOF) have been deploying to overseas operations with a revolutionary, ultra-light all-terrain vehicle called the Polaris MRZR. The MRZR is gas powered, seats up to six, and can haul up to 1,500 lbs of payload, but light enough to fit inside an MV-22 Osprey and zip troops around the battlefield.

Last week, Polaris Industries, an American manufacturer of snowmobiles, ATVs, and neighborhood electric vehicles, based in Roseau, Minnesota, revealed its MRZR X, a fully autonomous upgraded version of the MRZR at the AUVSI unmanned systems show near Washington, D.C.

According to the information provided by Polaris, the MRZR X is designed with the Army’s unmanned Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET) criteria points in mind. Polaris partnered with Applied Research Associates to outfit the MRZR-X with robotic systems, which can operate in unmanned or follow the leader mode.

Military.com lists the SMET’s requirements for a robotic vehicle: 

  • Accepts JP-8 fuel
  • Travel at least 60 miles in 72 hours
  • Haul at least 1,000 pounds of gear

Polaris is in the running with four other companies that could be selected by SMET for a broad rollout across US Armed Forces said Defense News. General Dynamics Land Systems, HDT Expeditionary Systems, and Howe & Howe are the other teams also selected by SMET, as the Pentagon is searching for the next robotic vehicles to add to its arsenal to lighten soldiers’ loads for long duration patrols.

“The MRZR is the preferred platform among infantry units and Special Forces worldwide, which helps make its integration and the transition from manned to unmanned systems easier for the warfighter,” Dr. John Olson, vice president and general manager of Polaris Government and Defense, said in a statement.

“The MRZR X maintains the MRZR mission profile and payload our customers are accustomed to, plus it has additional robotic and networked capabilities to further support warfighters,” he added.

Military.com describes the unnamed capabilities of the MRZR X:

“Polaris information, the unmanned capabilities will enable the vehicle to assume a greater variety of roles, including robotic equipment vehicle; autonomous battlefield resupply and logistics support; rescue missions; high-speed casualty evacuation; and, while in manned mode, personnel carrier.”   

“The advanced MRZR X fully integrates the autonomy systems and optimally places the sensors to safeguard the technology while keeping the physical and software architecture open so it can spiral in future technology,” Polaris stated in an announcement. “The vehicle drivetrain is powerful and reliable, allowing for longer missions, high speeds and silent drive when needed — all on the very familiar, sustainable and intuitive MRZR platform.”

Last week, we highlighted in the coming months, the United States Army is sending its first robotic killer Humvees to a field training exercise to see if the autonomous combat vehicle can accurately destroy targets, as part of a new experimental program to weaponize robots.

From autonomous dune Buggies to robotic killer Humvees, the Pentagon is actively preparing its fleet of autonomous killer robots, in the form of vehicles before the next major conflict breaks out.