The ground support crew at Robins Air Force Base has found it a bit easier recently to haul equipment in the tight quarters of hangars and around airplanes, due to a technology that was originally shelved after 9/11. Re-emerging nearly five years later, the Omni Directional Vehicle has aimed at carving a niche for itself in military GSE.
A New Direction
The Omni Directional Vehicle, developed and patented by Hammonds Technical Services Inc., made its ground support introduction at Robins Air Force base in Georgia in 2005. A circular vehicle, the technology has presented itself as an easier way to manipulate bulky equipment on the ground.
The first of its kind, the vehicle was designed as a tractor to pull heavy loads, but meant to rival the conventional. Maneuverability was a key ingredient in the design, with its ability to turn 360 degrees with a zero-turn radius.
The ODV’s ability to maneuver proved a main selling point for the AFB. As the first and only base to have implemented the machine with traditional tugs, ground workers have witnessed an operational advantage first hand. “It helps maneuver around in tight places tremendously,” Dwayne Markham says, a hydraulic technician at the base. “You don’t have to have somebody wait for you. We would have somebody help you hook up the old tractor. You couldn’t get out there and do it yourself.”
In addition to a modest turn radius, a rotary hitch was designed to run the circumference of the vehicle. A Pintle connection was added to lock in the front or the rear. With the body left free to swivel, the ODV has made switching operations more efficient at the base. “If you are in situations where you need to pull something instead of push … you can pull the lever on it and spin it around 180 degrees, and then you are pulling instead of pushing,” Markham says.
Since it was conceptualized in 2001, the ODV has evolved into a series of four models — G18, G30, G60 and G90 — each available with diesel, electric, propane and gas engines.
Correlating with the total towing capacity, the G90 can tug up to 90,000 pounds. The AFB currently has nine G30 units. Though the ODV is not being used for towing aircraft at Robins, the base has found multiple uses for it. “We mostly tow GPUs, electric generators, power generators, mobile air conditioners, heavy trailers, transport door on dollies,” Markham says.” The ODV has helped us tremendously. Where we can only take one at a time, we can take at least two at a time now.”
Built as a tractor for heavy loads, with add-ons the ODV can be configured for a slew of separate ramp functions, including a snow plow, broom, lavatory truck and baggage truck.
Its basic design has made it an optimal multifunctional vehicle, according to Carl Hammonds, the innovator and founder of HTS. “It has a lot of applications, because it is a perfectly round vehicle,” Hammonds says.
In an industry that has emphasized speed and security, Markham says the ODV has helped get the job done. “You can do the task a lot faster and safer,” he says.
Along with versatility and efficiency, the ODV has presented additional safety features.
The center position of the user and the ability of the vehicle to turn freely mean users can always have a full view, without having to back up or look over his or her shoulder. “Because the operator is sitting in the precise center, he always has a relative position to see where he is going, what he is pushing against,” Hammonds says. “You have a very intuitive control, allowing you to precisely handle what you are pulling or pushing. When you are in a position where you can literally move in any direction, it just gives you a level of safety not only for personnel but for the equipment you are towing.”
The ODV also features a hydrostatic drive system — the engine driving only the hydraulic pump. A user must be actively utilizing the controls to move the machine. “If you are not operating the pump by moving the controls, that movement stops,” Dave Yuhasz says, president of Aerosafe Products Inc., the company that contracted the ODV with Robins AFB.
Valued at $40,000-plus, ODV tractor is to be awarded in 2008.
A drawing will be held on Dec. 1, 2008, with winner notification occurring on Dec. 15th.
Hammonds awarded the $30,000-plus ODV tractor during Aviation Industry Expo.
Western Aircraft of Boise, Idaho, plans to "turn the ODV loose" in its storage hangar.