Drones delivering goods from door to door, drones that take selfies and now drones in the battlefield; Truly, the US Department of Defense (DoD) has left no stone unturned to make sure they have the most advanced technology money can buy.
Recent research has proved that although robotic warfare is still not feasible, but they are very optimistic about using tiny robot drones that might aid the soldiers to be their eyes and ears in the battlefield.
Unites States soldiers based in Hawaii spent half a month, training and testing alongside the new-age technology used in the robotic prototypes out cutting-edge robotic prototypes in exercises as a part of Pacific Manned-Unmanned Initiative (PACMAN-I). The 25th Infantry Division was entrusted with the control of airborne and land drones to determine which prototypes would be most compatible on working with the soldiers on the battlefield. This is the third time in history when the army has collaborated with using robotics on battlefield.
The immense interest that the army is taking in warfare robots is actually saying something about what future battle fields might look like. “We need to be making sure we’re fielding new technology as quickly as we can. It doesn’t do any good if we’re just investing in great technology if we don’t actually get it into the field for soldiers.,” said Eric Fanning the Secretary of the US Army.
Reports show that DoD spends around billion dollars of the tax payers money in developing combat technology each year. But all that research and development would not worth to anything if he users of the technology deem it incompatible with their surroundings. Last year, on the Boston Dynamic-developed Legged Squad Support System, a robotic pack mule worth $32 million was scrapped because marine officials deemed it too noisy.
Amongst the many robot prototypes, one of them is a ground vehicle, the Multipurpose Unmanned Tactical Transport (MUTT), developed by General Dynamics. Although the soldiers were pleased MUTT’s noise reduction, they were concerned with its inability to keep pace with the marching soldiers over difficult terrain.
However, one particular prototype has become quite the favorite. The pocket-sized drone developed by Prox Dynamics is called PD-100 Black Hornet and has a steerable camera and a single charge an last up to 25 minutes of flying time. It weighs around 16 grams and looks like a toy helicopter. Perfect for a soldier to scan the area and set a perimeter. The Black Hornet unmanned air vehicle (UAV) gives surveillance of potential threats to the armed troops. The small, remotely controlled drone offers access to remote locations and provides valuable insight of the battlefield.
Staff Sergeant James Roe was very optimistic about the Hornet saying “That was a system that we could actually take right now…on the battlefield. Some of these other systems, as with any electronics and robotics, there are some things that have to be worked out.”
From all the reviews received from PACMAN-I, unmanned ground robot prototypes may not make it to the battlefield anytime soon but the Black Hornet seems to have gotten ticks in all the boxes. Especially with the success the by both British and Norwegian forces with pocket drones, the US military has exclusively looked into getting military contractors to get their hands on such battle equipment. However, these flying bots do not come cheaply, the British military paid almost $200,000 for each.
The UK Ministry of Defense has a $31million dollar contract with Prox Dynamics for 160 units of Black Hornets for its armed forces, reports Army-technology. The British infantrymen based in Afghanistan have been using the new Black Hornets on a variety of missions since 2013.