Devens welcomes military robot technicians

QinetiQ North America opens new facility promoting automated army vehicles

Rep. Lori Trahan being shown how to operate a small robot by Cory Graham of QinetiQ North America at the company’s new facility in Devens

DEVENS – Congresswoman Lori Trahan was having plenty of fun testing out two remotely-controlled pieces of military vehicles at QinetiQ North America’s new manufacturing facility on Queenstown Street that officially opened Tuesday afternoon.

The new facility is the fifth location the company has opened since originally starting in Waltham as Foster-Miller, Inc. in 1956. Since then, QinetiQ has opened offices in Franklin along with Pittsburgh, and another in Virginia. The Devens facility, able to house about 50 employees, is meant to continue QinetiQ’s research and development of large military ground vehicles that can be operated by remote control.

One of the vehicles being housed at the new site was the High Mobility Engineering Excavator, a bulldozer-type of machinery converted to include semi-autonomous control. This is part of a contract awarded to QinetiQ in Aug. 2018 by the U.S. Department of Defense for the Route Clearance and Interrogation Systems Type 1 robotics program, valued at over $44 million.

QinetiQ’s other accomplishments include smaller robots. One includes the Dragon Runner 10, a lightweight model meant to scout out locations while military officials keep their distance. The slightly-larger model, the Dragon Runner 20, features a robotic arm meant for reconnaissance and inspection.

There’s also a vast amount of technology designed by the company. The highlight is its Robotic Appliqué Kit, which allows elements of certain vehicles to be remote controlled. It was first used on a Bobcat Loader for first responders and military officers to move debris and clear sites. The 3rd Generation of the tech was installed on the HMEE.

Jeff Yorsz, president of QinetiQ, spoke before the ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially christened the new building. He thanked everyone for attending the ceremony and how honored the company was to be in Devens.

“We’ve been using South Post here at Devens for quite a while to be doing our vehicle testing, so it really made sense for us to be looking out here next to the fort,” Yorsz said. “As a company, we’ve made a large commitment not only in this facility but into the unmanned vehicle marketplace. We wanted to be in an area next to the fort that allowed us to leverage their capabilities in a facility that would allow us to continue to grow.”

Trahan called QinetiQ a “perfect addition” for Devens and a “perfect proving ground” for the technology the company develops to be tested. She also recounted the time she met Yorsz in Washington D.C. in January and talked about what the company had accomplished, like one of the smaller robots she tested out that day.

“You understand immediately that that thing is in a war fighter’s backpack and that can be used to look around corners that might not be secure yet,” she said. “I think it’s an important technology when we think about our servicemen and women who are in battle in hostile territories. Anything that we can do to ensure their safety is really important. Massachusetts companies have been integral in the innovation that the Defense Department has been able to leverage to protect our war fighters.”