By Dialogo April 11, 2011 The U.S. Army is looking at ways to improve a special rucksack designed to carry a robotic vehicle on a Soldier’s back. The XM1216 Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle weighs less than 30 pounds and is finding many uses across the Army. Soldiers carry the SUGV into urban terrain, tunnels, sewers, and caves where the mission may be manpower-intensive or high-risk. The SUGV helps save lives by becoming mobile eyes and ears, or even detecting chemical or toxic agents. Officials from the Army’s Program Executive Office Integration recently contacted the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Prototype Integration Facility at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. to see what engineers could do to streamline the rucksack. The inventive team at the PIF evaluated the gear and came up with a solution to hastily remove the SUGV from the rucksack and get it operational in less than two minutes. The current design has the SUGV housed in the MOLLE-Rucksack. Soldiers commonly refer to the rucksack as a Molly, but it is an acronym for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. Soldier carry the MOLLE as a backpack attached to a frame. “We don’t cut corners when there are lives on the line,” says Government Project Lead TJ LaPointe. LaPointe said his team refinined the backpack design to make it easier and less time-consuming. “I have the best job in the world, being able to support and save those men and women out there fighting for all of us,” he said. “I am very proud to be involved in everything the PIF is doing for the Warfighter, and so are the rest of us that work here.” Officials also received input from the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center’s engineering and industrial operations staff. The PIF team installed a zipper on each side of the rucksack and removed the drawstring located at the top. “The zippers allow for a much more fluid removal of the SUGV,” LaPointe said. Before, Soldiers removed the SUGV from the top of the rucksack. The zippers, as well as additional strapping and quick-release buckles, are the same components currently used on the rucksack. As the PEOI Soldier representative, Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Faddis provides a unique perspective, giving civilian scientist a Soldier’s view of the technology they develop. He said the redesign is impressive. “My first thought was that it looked like they took the time to do the zippers correctly,” he said. “It was very professionally done.” The PIF team also designed a quick-release strapping system, that attaches the SUGV unit directly to the rucksack frame, which eliminates the need for the rucksack. Both products will be tested by Soldiers soon to get additional feedback on the effectiveness of the new PIF designs. Based on feedback, the Army will move forward with fielding the new gear.