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Military robots are autonomous or remote-controlled devices designed for military applications.

British soldiers with captured German Goliath remote-controlled demolition vehicles (Battle of Normandy, 1944).  Predator drone
British soldiers with captured German Goliath remote-controlled demolition vehicles (Battle of Normandy, 1944).
Predator drone

Such systems are currently being researched by a number of militaries. Already remarkable success has been achieved with unmanned aerial vehicles like the Predator drone, which are capable of taking surveillance photographs, and even accurately launching missiles at ground targets, without a pilot. A subclass of these are Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles, which are designed to carry out strike missions in combat.

History & Developments

the combat version of the Foster-Miller TALON, SWORDS.
the combat version of the Foster-Miller TALON, SWORDS.

Broadly defined, military robots date back to World War 2 and the Cold War in the form of the German Goliath tracked mines and the Soviet teletanks. However, these were simple and made little real impact on the war. It was not until the war in Afghanistan and the Second Iraq War that military robots became more than a footnote. Since then, they advanced rapidly. Defense contractors in the USA are hard at work developing autonomous "robot soldiers", but most current models look more like tanks than humans. There are problems with threat recognition and response; some models will not shoot cows with guerillas crouched behind them, but will fire at anything stenciled with an AK-47 silhouette.

In December 2003, the Associated Press reported that The Pentagon had purchased several Segways, as part of a research program called "Mobile Autonomous Robot Software", an attempt to develop more advanced military robots.

Examples of systems in development

  • US Mechatronics has produced a working automated sentry gun and is currently developing it further for commercial and military use.[2]
  • MIDARS, a four-wheeled robot outfitted with several cameras, radar, and possibly a firearm, that automatically performs random or preprogrammed patrols around a military base or other government installation. It alerts a human overseer when it detects movement in unauthorized areas, or other programmed conditions. The operator can then instruct the robot to ignore the event, or take over remote control to deal with an intruder, or to get better camera views of an emergency. The robot would also regularly scan radio frequency identification tags (RFID) placed on stored inventory as it passed and report any missing items.
  • US scientists at MIT are known to be "looking into building a mechanical super-fighter ... able to heal his own wounds, leap buildings, deflect bullets and even become invisible" which "won't be ready for at least 10 years."[3]
  • Tactical Autonomous Combatant (TAC) units, described in Project Alpha study 'Unmanned Effects: Taking the Human out of the Loop' - TAC robots are seen as being faster and more lethal than human soldiers, and able to work in more hazardous environments. This study, which was done in 2003, saw TACs as a reality by 2025.
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There are many advantages in robotic technology in warfare however, as outlined by Major Kenneth Rose of the US Army's Training and Doctrine Command{2]: "Machines don't get tired. They don't close their eyes. They don't hide under trees when it rains and they don't talk to their buddies ... A human's attention to detail on guard duty drops dramatically in the first 30 minutes ... Machines know no fear." However, even so, military robots face a variety of issues, many of which are not even remotely a problem for human soldiers.

Friendly fire

Because AI is not sufficiently advanced enough to prevent friendly fire, researchers continue to stress the importance of keeping a human in the loop. One Internet rumor about friendly fire emerged when funding for the US Army's machine-gun-equipped SWORDS was pulled. According to the Army's Program Executive Officer for Ground Forces, Kevin Fahey, "The gun started moving when it was not intended to move". Rumors quickly massed about the robots turning on their comrades and their subsequent suppression. [3] However, the story proved unsubstantiated. [4]


Computer games


External links


News articles/Press releases




Basics -- Robotics

Robotics in Space

Robots in the Home

Robots in the Military

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