SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) – The use of robots is not new for the U.S. military, but technology is constantly changing, and officials are always searching for the latest and greatest.
Now, the military is using large and small robots that can do things humans cannot – which is why the military is relying on them as the future.
The robots being used can swim, climb up fences and trek through snow. They can even shrink to fit under cars and trucks.
“You are multiplying combat power by allowing robots to take on missions that would ordinarily be performed by troops,” said Sean Bielat, who is the CEO of Endeavor Robotics.
Endeavor Robotics is one of two companies competing for a $429 million contract to build and mass produce a reconnaissance and bomb-defusing robot small enough to fit into an Army soldier’s backpack.
The U.S. Army has been using remote controlled rovers for more than 15 years, but they are looking to add 5,000 more robots that are smarter, nimbler and more durable.
“We are very cognizant that our adversaries are certainly looking for ways to implement them (robots) in their formations and we feel it is very important to do that and to maintain our competitive edge over our enemies in the long term,” said U.S Army Lt. Col. Jonathan Bodenhamer.
For example, a small transportation vehicle known as a Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport, or SMET, can help lighten a soldier’s load up to 1,000 pounds. It's controlled by a simple tether attached to the soldier.
Bodenhamer, a U.S. Army product manager, adds, “When they [soldiers] are on patrol, if something is carrying their pack instead of them, it makes them able to react more quickly to enemy contact. They are lighter on their feet.”
While the military relies on the devices to do several things, currently robots are only used to help soldiers in the field and not in the fight.
PW Singer is an author and warfare expert. He said, “That is one of the deepest concerns when you think about the operation of robots on the battlefield. [It] is not just what can they do, but what should they do and who do you hold responsible if they do something bad?”
That is not to say that one day robots may be on the front lines, but if and when that happens, there is a lot to consider.