The view of Pittsburgh's skyline from the Embassy Suites hotel. Photo by Rob Larson.

$2.9 million Air Force grant to local robotics company enhances runway safety

When attacks happen on Air Force bases and at airports, local authorities need to react promptly so planes can take off and land again.  The required tasks include filling holes with dirt and rocks, and paving the surface to allow the planes to roll over them.

The repair activity has traditionally used heavy equipment like bulldozers and backhoes, driven and operated by humans – a task often fraught with danger from accidents and bombs that have not yet gone off.

So the U. S. Air Force has provided $2.9 million in funding to Pittsburgh robotics firm RE2 Robotics. With these funds, RE2 is developing products to remove the human from the vehicle during the repair activities.

“The intent is to do robotic retrofits,” says Allan Bancroft, principal project engineer at RE2, “where no permanent modification is made to the vehicle. So we can insert the robotics or it can be removed to allow a human to utilize the same vehicles and tools.”

Bancroft told NextPittsburgh that with RE2’s developments, a human would put the robot in the driver’s seat, buckle the seatbelt, set up the cameras to see around the vehicle and make sure that the robotic arms have access to the same controls as the human; then close the door and someone would operate it remotely.

PennDOT works on safety, too — teaming with Penn State on a new track

PennDOT announced this week that they’re taking another step forward by creating a safety research track with Penn State University. The track, called PennSTART, for Pennsylvania Safety Transportation and Research Track will help them test concepts related to automated and standard vehicles, traffic management during incidents (such as accidents), and other road-related factors.

Visualizations of PennSTART are available at the project’s website.

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David Radin is CEO of Confirmed ( For decades, he has been leveraging technology and techniques to transform the way his audiences and clients succeed.