When Bobcat introduced its Toolcat 5600 last year, the company predicted that the new "utility work machine" would find varied application. We're not sure, though, if Bobcat ever expected the Toolcat to join the Army.
But it has, experimentally at least. According to Travis Mann, a research civil engineer at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss., the Toolcat recently was involved in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers demonstration project at Ft. Bragg, N.C. The project, Joint Rapid Airfield Construction, was designed to investigate technology that can assist Army engineers in more quickly establishing airfields in hostile environments.
The Toolcat, which could be operated remotely, carried on its coupler a dynamic cone penetrometer (to measure soil strength) and was loaded with GPS survey equipment, supplied by a Charlotte, N.C., Trimble dealer Spectra-IS. Company principal, Joe McNamara, helped train Army engineers in using both the survey gear and the Trimble automated GPS grade-control systems installed on the Ft. Bragg earthmovers.
In just 72 hours, Army engineers surveyed the site, created 3-D digital terrain models for the earthmoving machines, graded the site and experimented with four techniques for stabilizing soil on two parking aprons. Then, a C-130 aircraft landed at Ft. Bragg and rolled onto the aprons, which performed admirably.