Hybrid propulsion for robots

Imagine a small battle tank with no turret, no engine, no pilot’s cabin, just two tracks linked by a horizontal metallic platform. Rustic, even simplistic, you might think. And yet, the Tracked Hybrid Modular Infantry System, or THeMIS, built by Estonian company Milrem, is much more than that. Powered by a hybrid propulsion system that is unique in this sector, THeMIS is a universal platform designed to support or replace man in a critical environment. THeMIS can integrate different payloads according to its mission: from a stretcher to a machine-gun, via communications and reconnaissance systems.

At the 2016 Singapore Air Sow THeMIS was seen carrying an ADDER remote weapon station made by ST Kinetics. Credit: Milrem

At the 2016 Singapore Air Sow THeMIS was seen carrying an ADDER remote weapon station made by ST Kinetics. Credit: Milrem

Unveiled “naked” at London’s DSEI exhibition last September, THeMIS has just been presented in a first armed version, developed in cooperation with Singapore’s ST Kinetics. The robot is quite imposing. It is 2.5m long, 2m wide and 0.90m high and has a base curb weight of 750kg allowing it to carry a payload as heavy as it is for eight hours at a maximum speed of 50kph.

Even if there have been no firm orders from Estonia, “the Estonian Defence Forces and the Estonian National Defence College are our strong partners with whom we are developing the THeMIS and also finding ways in which the THeMIS can be used on the battlefield,” says Milrem’s CEO, Kuldar Väärsi. In order to do so THeMIS will take part in Estonia’s “Spring Storm” exercise in May where it will provide a logistical support platform for the Estonian army’s Support Command.

Questioned by FOB as to the marketing outlook for this technology, Väärsi said: “We will be marketing the THeMIS in the regions that are of interest to us – the US, UK, Middle-East and Singapore (Asia Pacific).

Apart from its modularity, the strength of THeMIS lies in its propulsion mode. The tracks are totally independent of each other. Each is powered by a hybrid propulsion system that combines an electric generator powered by Li-ion batteries, and a diesel engine. In parallel to the platform itself, “we will be developing the control system for the vehicle that will allow firstly a follow me function, secondly the autonomy and thirdly a swarming solution that will allow several of our vehicles with different superstructures to communicate with each other and work as a unit on the field,” Väärsi explained. Meanwhile, Milrem is working on inserting such systems into a tactical network at the battalion level in the framework of the Digital Infantry Battlefield Solution (DIBS) programme. Practical testing will be undertaken in coordination with the Estonian armed forces.

Milrem hopes to start production of the THeMIS in 2017. Meawhile, Väärsi confirmed that the robot will be at the Paris Eurosatory show in June “where we will have at least two vehicles. One static in the Estonian Pavilion and another in the dynamic demonstrations area.”