It sounds like something from a science fiction movie, but it’s true, real, and happening now. The United States army is turning to robot soldiers to march into battle alongside troops. Previously these robots were mostly scout vehicles and drones, but tests have been started to get them into the trenches alongside troops.
A test was conducted with robotic engineers, remote-controlled vehicles that performed a ‘breach’ and cleared away mines and traps for tanks and infantry to advance. The robots cleared the traps while armor brigades provided covering fire.
Normally this job would fall to human engineers, who would go into the area and face heavy fire from the enemy who is attempting to keep the traps there. Since Engineers aren’t combat ready and can be distracted by injury, explosions, and death while attempting to remove the traps, using robots makes the job safer.
The bots are durable, unable to be hurt or distracted, and have a much higher survival rate than humans, whose causality chance is around 50% for every breach. The robots could save a lot of lives, both directly and indirectly.
The growing robot influence
With more and more robotic controlled forces entering the battlefield alongside humans, they are furthering being specialized and treated like troops. Previously one type of robot could only handle one type of threat, and they were often used to disable explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now Robots are being equipped with interchangeable parts, potentially turning one robot into a machine that can detect, handle, and neutralize several types of threats with just a few quick upgrades and equipment changes.
Autonomous weapons are also being developed, but not everyone is keen on the idea of having a robot army making lethal and consequence filled decisions. Any and all robot weapons would have to have a human at the helm to add the moral conscience that robots lack and some countries even want to ban autonomous robots entirely.
With the technology to create a fully robotic armed force underway, that debate is picking up steam and it’s a question people will have to answer. Are we saving human lives by acting less human and putting moral decisions on the shoulders of a cold fact driven AI?
Remote controlled forces
Thankfully, the only robots that the U.S and other armies can field for now are fully robotic ones that need to be controlled by a human or unmanned tanks and drones. However, with both military and civilian contractors predicting that this technology will go on ahead, the debate needs to be had.
At least for now, these robotic forces can do the dirty and dangerous work that has high causality rates for humans and save the lives of their brothers in arms. From explosive disarmament to clearing mines and traps, to detecting chemical and nuclear weapons, the robots in the armies of the world have a lot of people hoping for a new type of warfare. One where humans could be off the battlefield entirely.