By Debbie Gregory.
With advances in technology, real boots on the ground in conflict areas may be reduced. According to Scott Davis, program executive officer for Combat Support and Combat Service Support, the Army may be deploying ground robots to assist in conflicts.
During a recent session of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), Davis shared an update on the robotics programs. Due to activate between 2019 and 2024, the program includes autonomous and semi-autonomous systems used to clear mines, provide surveillance, convoy supplies and acquire targets, among other things.
Previous ground-based, semi-autonomous systems were a hodgepodge of nonstandard, non-interchangeable system parts. They were rushed through design, production and distribution in order to meet the immediate need of saving Soldiers’ lives.
While the current generation is undergoing testing, one major obstacle is the speed at which the current technology is evolving. Innovations render the systems obsolete, even before they reach fielding or initial operational capability.
The Robotics Enhancement Program, or REP, should alleviate this concern, Davis said. The concept is similar to that of the Soldier Enhancement Program; once small quantities of the robotics system are evaluated, they will be expedited for validation, prioritization and funding through the G-3/5/7.
Twice a year, a council of colonels will meet to evaluate battle lab test results, to see if capabilities of new systems or components pan out. If green lighted, they could become requirements.
Davis provided solutions for most of the Army’s wishlist: incremental hardware and software enhancements to existing systems/chassis; sensor and payload upgrades; modularity; open architecture in IOP, or, in- and out-processing software; standardization; miniaturization and light weight; and intelligent behavior.
Davis touched upon other robotic systems including a bird-dog like robot that can see, smell, hear, and fetch. The capabilities would allow the operator to focus on the mission at hand, and not the tools used in the mission. Also expected is a large robot that can haul up to half a ton.
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