A robot helicopter that can carry three tons of cargo, the Marine Corps K-MAX certainly has the cool factor. But does it have a future? After a six-month pilot project in Afghanistan got extended into a 33-month deployment that made 2,250 tons of deliveries, the two experimental aircraft have come home. Prime contractor Lockheed Martin… Keep reading →
The future of military robotics may not look much like a robot. It may just be a truck that drives itself. That’s the simple, pragmatic approach pursued by Oshkosh — a company better known for trucks than Terminators — with its TerraMax Unmanned Ground Vehicle. But after eight years of experiments for three different military… Keep reading →
As the Defense Department’s budget goes down, the number of contracts awarded without competitive bids is going up. The share of contracts awarded without competition has risen from 39 percent in 2009 to 42 percent in 2012, according to a report I co-authored with Jesse Ellman and Rhys McCormick on DoD Contracting Trends. The news for… Keep reading →
High-tech warfare at knife-fight ranges: that’s the ugly future of urban combat. If you thought Baghdad was bad, with its roughly six million people, imagine a “megacity” of 10 or 20 million, where the slums have more inhabitants than some countries. Imagine a city of the very near future where suspicious locals post every US… Keep reading →
After our story yesterday on Robert Work and Shawn Brimley‘s disconcerting vision of future robotic war, we got a thoughtful response from Brimley that, with his permission, we’ve published below. The Editors. Bob and I wrote the paper because we feel strongly that there are some powerful trends affecting the relationship between technology and military… Keep reading →
More robots, fewer people. That’s where the US military is headed in the future. But what kind of robots? Army Gen. Robert Cone, four-star commander of the powerful Training and Doctrine Command (aka TRADOC), said that the service is studying how robots could help replace 25 percent of the soldiers in each of its 4,000-strong combat brigades. That’s because the… Keep reading →
OLD CROWS CONFERENCE: People fear drones. People fear “killer robots.” People fear death by push button. People need to put away their fears and remember that computing power, coupled with automation and rules-based decision-making, has saved many lives and is likely to save many more than any runaway robot ever will kill. That was… Keep reading →
Here’s the latest exciting — and unnerving — unmanned system to catch our eye: a 1.5-ton robot that shoots the ever-living crap out of things. Oh, and the manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, most famous for building the B-2 stealth bomber, decided to call it MADSS, as in angry or insane. Perhaps they could’ve been a little… Keep reading →
AUSA: As US forces draw down in Afghanistan, there will be ever fewer troops to stand guard on base perimeters — and ever less public tolerance for any of them getting hurt. That’s the opportunity Norwegian arms-maker Kongsberg wants to seize with its Containerized Weapon Station, a sort of jack-in-the-box machinegun to protect forward bases.
Kongsberg is already the leading manufacturer of remotely-controlled gun mounts for Humvees and other US military vehicles, the Army having ordered more than 10,000 of its CROWS system (Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station). Instead of having to stick their heads and shoulders out of a hatch to fire, gunners can use a CROWS system to scan for targets, aim, and shoot while safely inside and under armor. Keep reading →
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB: Since 9/11, robots have become commonplace tools for the military, police bomb squads, and hazardous materials teams. But as budgets tighten, not even the Pentagon can afford to buy many types of robots, each for a different mission.
So Northrop Grumman’s subsidiary, Remotec, is rolling out a new robot called Titus specifically designed to be smaller, cheaper, and more versatile than the current crop. Its basic configuration weighs about 135 pounds, costs about $125,000, and is “modular” so users can easily snap off and snap on parts to tailor the robot to a particular mission. Users can swap the manipulator arm, the tires and tracks (it has both), and cameras; Titus even has “Picatinny rails” like those on standard-issue U.S. military rifles so users can snap on different accessories. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: The US military wants robots that can work alongside soldiers without needing constant remote-control attention to keep them from knocking into things. That isn’t as easy as it sounds. While computers can out-process a human mind now by crunching huge numbers of numbers, when it comes to physical objects, even state-of-the-art robots make human toddlers look coordinated.
That clumsiness is something Georgia Tech professor Mike Stilman is working to cure. With a three-year, $900,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research, which supports research into everything from robotics to railguns, Stilman is trying to develop a robot that can not only avoid obstacles but can use them as improvised tools. He and his team call the project “MacGyver.” Keep reading →