To many people, "military robots" mean unmanned aerial or ground vehicles. Many military robots fit these categories, but some go way beyond this definition.
For example, we've reported before on Boston Dynamics robots that mimic human, animal, and insect movements. The Georgia Institute of Technology's Scalybots mimic a snake's movements. Designers of these tactical robots are trying to come up with small machines with rugged design, multiple data collection and communication methods, long battery life, the ability to negotiate rough terrain, and, in some cases, lifting and grasping capabilities. The goal is to go where humans can't without risking their lives.
Click on the image below to start a slideshow highlighting 14 robotic soldiers.
The Machine Lab's MMP-30 Mechanical Mobile Platform is used for explosive ordnance disposal in Iraq. It weighs 50 pounds (including control unit), measures about 23 inches long when collapsed, and can be carried in a backpack. Its pan/tilt color infrared camera has 180-degree pan and 150-degree tilt. The robot also sports a color, wide-angle gripper camera and a color, wide-angle rear-facing camera. The four-axis arm has a 20-inch reach and can lift five pounds at full extension. (Source: The Machine Lab)
It is possibly true that those on the other side will also develop fighting robots, but the free world does have better technical resources, so we will have the upper hand for a while, at least. In addition, we will probably be able to utilize ECM against the enemy robots and reduce their effectiveness a bit. On the other side, we could always resort to multi-layer nuclear carpetbombing which would neutralize some opposition troops fairly well. At that point the other side would probably not have a similar response option handy.
And if you liked the Predator A with two Hellfire missles you'll love the Reaper (Predator B) that carries 14 plus bombs. I was reading at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Atomics_MQ-1_Predator about on Sptember 11, 2001 a Predator was shotdown over Iraq by a SAM during the "no fly zone" period. Under the "IRAQ" heading, a dogfight is described between a MIG25 and a Predator that was armed with a Stinger air-to-air missle. It says the Stinger was distracted by the MIGs missle. These machines have already taken human lives thus they are no longer in the realm of Sci-Fi. Looks like a new arms race to me. My bet is Moores Law will apply here too. I think we are in very deep dodo as far as the human race.
ChasChas, I think that's a good point. The search and rescue and surveillance/reconnaissance robots shown here definitely save lives. If robots ever become weaponized against people, instead of against bombs, that will be another story. Many nations' militaries are investing in R&D for exactly that scenario.
Jack, the ones already in use by the US military are definitely production runs, in the sense of final tested products, although that said, production runs of these things are in the hundreds. The largest order quantity I saw mentioned was for 1,000. The US military is investing heavily in R&D of robots for various uses.
Rob, the military, especially DARPA, has been a big driver of these robots, and they certainly have the funding. The basic platform of search and rescue and surveillance/reconnaissance robots, as are most of those shown here, can be then easily customized for other first responder uses, such as police and firefighters, who have no budgets. And no, these are not recent. Early drones appeared in the 1990s. Boston Dynamics, one of the main pioneers, started in 1992. Depending on how you define them, the development of military robots can be seen as starting as far back as WWII.
We like think in terms of our robots taking the brunt of casualties in warfare, but how about when the enemy has robots also? Our robots might save our lives, but their robots will cost us lives. We can't have it both ways. Still there is no stopping the production of robot killers.If we fail to produce them, someone else surly will. And they will no doubt use them against us at some time. Further robot killers, otherwise known as Terminators, must be and will be autonomous. My thinking is that we would not be able to depend on human reaction time as we are very slow compared to our machines.
In my opinion, based on some 40 years of software/hardware work, we will likely never be able to make self aware machines. While we can use fuzzy logic in these machines to make decisions, they will likely never have an appreciation for a sunset, a rose, or the beauty of the human form.Asimov got it wrong with his laws for robotics.These machines can however locate the human form and destroy it.Pretty sad.
The recent spoofing and landing intact of the CIA drone by Iran should be a wakeup call. I would bet dollars to donuts that the FPGA chips used in it were not protected. If they were smart enough to convince the drone to safely land in Iran, they are probably smart enough to figure out the internal electronics. And what if they send a copied drone, or squadron of them back to Iraq loaded with Hellfire missile copies to attack US positions?We always underestimate people in other nations and overestimate our own cleverness.
As a GI, I learned that tracers work both ways.I think robots will do too.
Ann, your comment about soliders using video games to train for war is spot on, but so is your comment about people who kill doing the same. I read just last week that the guy responsible for that horrible massacre in Norway sharpened his aim by playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare for hours on end. Now the scary thing is my 14-year old plays that game (I caved under pressure after months of holding off) as do all of his friends.
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