WASHINGTON D.C. - Could wood-burning, robotic trucks be a part of the U.S. Army's future?
 
Dr. Jaret Riddick, the newest director for the Army Research Laboratory's Vehicle Technology Directorate, says ground vehicles that burn wood pulp for fuel are part of the Army's vision of a fully modernized force. 
 
Dr. Jaret Riddick
During foot patrols, soldiers may find themselves isolated from any base with fuel supplies, says Riddick, presenting a challenge for conventional combustion engines.
 
"Duration of the mission is a challenge," Riddick said. "They are often controlled by power and energy."
 
So Riddick and his team are working on developing engines that consume raw materials directly from the soldier's environment, transforming any organic and combustible material into biofuel.
 
The team is also looking to develop unmanned vehicles that can work in tandem with the soldier, which Riddick calls manned-unmanned teaming.
 
"The expected result is to provide the future warfighter with an autonomous system that operates as a teammate and can transport material as supplies, and enhance situational awareness by supporting the communication, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission," Riddick said in a statement.
 
Advancing manned-unmanned teaming could allow drones and other autonomous ground vehicles to act as the "tip of the spear," protecting soldiers from first contact with the enemy, Riddick said in the statement.

Large biofuel and wood waste projects are in the works around the world. A $73 million synthetic fuel plant is being built in West Virginia, Canadian lumber giant Canfor is building its first biocrude oil plant in Vancouver, and Washington state-based Alaska Airlines made history flying the first commercial flight using the world’s first renewable, alternative jet fuel made from wood waste and forest residuals – limbs and branches left over after a harvest of a managed forest.

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