TANNER — SAIC needed a location for its work in support of the M160, a mine-killing robot used by the Army. And the company found a location in Tanner that provides everything it needs: Alabama Robotics Technology Park.
SAIC is one of four clients using the park's 1-year-old Advanced Technology Research and Development Center.
The park is off to a successful start after filling up within its first three months, robotics park Director Terry Griffin said.
Griffin said SAIC is the kind of client park developers "envisioned from the beginning" because the company is testing and evaluating robots in the center. The center provides a 6,000-square-foot high bay with lab and office space for each client. The company regularly uses the park's test track.
Alabama-based companies do not have to pay rent to use the facility. The only cost to the companies is each's share of the utility bill.
"It's a beautiful facility in a great location," said Tim Massey, SAIC vice president and division manager.
"There aren't many places that provide the integration facility with a lab, office space and a test track within walking distance," Massey said.
Massey said his company also is taking advantage of the students from Calhoun Community College, a partner in the park along with the Alabama Industrial Development and Training Institute. The interns help SAIC employees run the required tasks and tests, he said.
"Ultimately, we're training our future workforce," Massey said.
SAIC is a subcontractor with the Croatian company DOK-ING on the M160 project. It is providing engineering and support on this vehicle, which was first delivered to the U.S. Department of Defense in 2004.
The M160 leads military convoys like those now in Afghanistan with a its operator riding behind in a military vehicle.
This bulldozer-like vehicle uses hammers and chains on its front to pound the ground to find mines and other explosive devices. It also can clear brush and digs for buried mines.
The Army is using the M160 in Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of use in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia.
The vehicle has destroyed more than 120,000 mines over 40 million square meters.
"We're thrilled to be a part of this program," Massey said. "The Army has said it's proud of the number of mines the machine has destroyed. It's saved so many lives."
Massey said his company is working on a new electronics and telemetry system for the vehicle. SAIC is upgrading the system for electronic warfare so the enemy can't jam it during combat.
Griffin said park has a three-year agreement with SAIC. He said park developers plan to keep leases to between one and three years.
"Our goal is to help as many Alabama companies as we can," Griffin said. "We don't want to be exclusive."
Massey said SAIC wants to be in the robotics park as long as possible. He said he believes it gives his company an advantage when it bids on Defense Department projects.
"This project is just an entry point into our relationship with the Robotics Technology Park," Massey said.
Bayne Hughes can be reached at 256-340-2432 or email@example.com.
The Advanced Technology Research and Development Center features is a 43,000-squarefoot test facility for companies developing robotics technology. The 1-year-old center is the second phase of the Alabama Robotics Technology Park in Tanner.
The center has four clients:
SAIC: A company working in support of the M160, a mine killing robot used by the U.S. Army.
AMTEC: A company that designs robots for industrial manufacturers.
MESA: A Huntsville company that is developing robots for industrial manufacturing and military unmanned systems.
PeopleTEC: A subcontractor developing unmanned robotics systems for the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Command.
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