Computerworld recently reported that the United States Army is testing a number of combat robots, remote control land drones really, that can carry soldiers’ equipment and fire a heavy machine gun at the enemy.
Four companies, Lockheed Martin, iRobot, 5D Robotics and HDT, demonstrated their combat robots at a competition at Fort Benning, Georgia. The robots demonstrated autonomous ability, the capability of carrying heavy loads, and fire a heavy machine gun at various targets.
The modified form of the HDT Protector is typical of the combat robots that were demonstrated, according to Syfy Dvice.
“HDT’s robot has the ability to fire an M240 machine gun at a target approximately 492 feet away and seems to be a specially modified form of the companies’ Protector robot. The HDT Protector robot can carry 1,250 massive pounds of gear, can climb 45 degree steep slopes and clocks in at less than three feet wide, making it a useful tool for Army missions that require heavy foot traffic.
“The Protector has a 32 horsepower turbo diesel/JP8 engine that is the “robotic equivalent of a jeep or HMMWV” that runs on 15 gallons of diesel or JP8 fuel. Its turbocharger allows it to power up an attachment like a mini-flail, mine roller, manipulator arms, satellite communications panels and, of course, a machine gun, giving the robot a useful customizable interface suited to many different purposes.
“It can be controlled via a wireless remote that resembles a lightweight video game controller with two buttons and a thumbstick. It operates with an included four-pound radio repeater that has a 3,280 feet range to the robot. Via a ‘cruise control’ button on the remote, the operator has the option to let the robot maintain its own speed and direction, which can be switched back to manual mode at any time.”
The United States military has been interested in supplementing its combat strength with robots ever since the success of aerial drones in both reconnaissance and combat missions. The idea is that robots like the HDT Protector would become the “point of the spear,” undertaking the most dangerous missions that currently involve risking the lives of servicemen and women. Missions would involve everything from clearing mine fields and dealing with improvised explosive devices, clearing occupied buildings, and attacking surface to air missile sites. These missions completed, human soldiers would follow to mop up, take or destroy on objective. The lives and wellbeing of soldiers would be preserved that otherwise might be lost in combat.