Robots – To Serve Man
Some Save – Some Kill
Here are a few true combat robotics stories. They show that unlike their creator, robots can be designed in all kinds of sizes, for all kinds of applications, in all kinds of environments.
They range from nano to mega, to save friends or destroy enemies, on land, in the sky or undersea. Robots work alone or in groups, autonomously or under remote control. Fearlessly robots go where people dare not. But man must still take responsibility for what the robots do.
Working in Tandem to Save Lives
The first story was shown at the TARDEC Robotics Rodeo at Fort Benning, GA. where a “marsupial” robot team, which is when a larger autonomous (or in this case, teleoperated) system or robot carries a smaller robot (SUGV: Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle) to its destination, extending the robots’ range to keep warfighters at a safe distances.
The folks at iRobot teamed with Caterpillar to combine a smart light weight scout robot with a powerful remotely controlled multi-terrain loader. Read more here and watch these cuter than kangaroos machines in action below…
Stories about killer robots
Some Robots Seek & Destroy
Switchblade – Miniature Loitering Weapon
I have to admit to uttering a dark chuckle when I first read the classification “Miniature Loitering Weapon” for the “Switchblade” UAV from AeroVironment. AeroVironment is an interesting California based tech company that makes UAVs and Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations. UAVs & EVs are a couple of our favorite subjects here at Innovational Musings.
AeroVironment was founded in 1971 by Dr. Paul MacCready known as the “father of human-powered flight.” I’m not sure how pleased MacCready would have been with “Switchblade” or the company’s term “magic bullet” but this lightweight UAV can be carried to the battlefield and transform from a spy in the sky to a guided mini bomb.
He Ain’t Heavy, it’s My UAV
AeroVironment describes the Switchblade as the warfighter’s “magic bullet”. It can rapidly provide a powerful, but expendable miniature flying Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) package on a Beyond Line-of-Sight (BLOS) target within minutes. This miniature, remotely-piloted or autonomous platform can either glide or propel itself via quiet electric propulsion, providing real-time GPS coordinates and video for information gathering, targeting, or feature/object recognition. The vehicle’s small size and quiet motor make it difficult to detect, recognize, and track even at very close range. The Switchblade is fully scalable and can be launched from a variety of air and ground platforms.
The Switchblade’s payload and launcher, weighing less than six pounds total, can be carried in a backpack by a single soldier. The mini UAV, which sends streaming video and GPS coordinates back to its operator, can be transformed from an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance UAV into a mini bomb striking a target beyond the line of sight. See full article in Defense Update…
Below is another case of a robot/UAV being carried about by a buddy in this great shot of the stealthy Phantom Ray being transported for full scale testing.
Bad Ass Phantom Ray Hitches Ride from Boeing Big Brother
Boeing has unveiled the new, fighter-sized 50 foot span experimental unmanned Phantom Ray – a test bed for advanced Unmanned Combat Aerial System (UCAS) technologies. Phantom Ray is designed to support potential missions that may include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; strike; and autonomous aerial refueling.
Phantom Ray General Characteristics:
Length: 36 ft (10.9 m)
Wingspan: 50 ft (15.2 m)
Gross Weight: 36,500 lbs (16,556 kg)
Operating Altitude: 40,000 ft (12,192 m)
Cruise Mach: 0.8 (614 mph-988 km/h)
See full article at Defense Update…
So we finish up these true tales of fighting men and machines. Warfighters and robots working together to win the wars. Machines serving man in the most extreme of enterprises. But we should be wary of those who unselfishly propose To Serve Man. They may have other motives on their menu.
Now, I have to admit to being fascinated by these wondrous fighting machines and the brilliant engineering needed to bring them to life. I do have doubts though about the wisdom of having machines doing our fighting for us as we stand-off at a safe distance. If we are to fight wars there is an inherent danger in outsourcing the dirty work to our moral-less machine mercenaries.
My fears are not just the Terminator scenarios of the movies. Beyond what Asimov called the Frankenstein Complex, where machines turn on their creators. My concern is our loss of the horror of war. War and killing should not be clean and distant. It is not a video game. It needs to be up-close and dirty so we see, smell and hear the horror. We need to know that our lives are at stake and can be lost in battle. It keeps us human, connected to what we are risking.
I do believe that war and killing are still sometimes called for to protect ourselves and families. But war fighting should never become easy and we should not be comfortable hiding behind the mask of our machines. We must be responsible for our actions and remain in control of our destiny.
Perhaps Styx said it Best
I’m not a robot without emotions, I’m not what you see,
I’ve come to help you with your problems so we can be free,
I’m not a hero, I’m not a savior, forget what you know,
I’m just a man who’s circumstances went beyond his control,
Beyond my control, We all need control,
I need control, we all need control,
I am the modern man, (Secret secret, I’ve got a secret)
Who hides behind a mask, (Secret secret, I’ve got a secret)
So no one else can see, (Secret secret, I’ve got a secret)
My true identity,
Domo Arigato. Mr, Roboto