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Aug. 9, 2017: IEEE Computing Now


A Sneak Peek at Next Gen Military Robotics

By Jeff Debrosse

Welcome to the inaugural post of The Robotics Report. My thanks to IEEE for this wonderful opportunity to talk about all things robotics – issues, trends, concepts, and more! And we’ll focus on an array of key verticals, some of which may include air, ground, maritime (surface and sub-surface), artificial intelligence, humanoid, and more.

So let’s begin by addressing another important vertical – the military.

It’s no secret that robots will play an increasingly important role in military warfare. A new generation of threats has paved the way for enhanced capabilities, such as endurance, data processing, and communications. Hostile nations, cross-border insurgents, pirates, and terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS have created a need for defense systems capable of executing surveillance and intelligence gathering missions.

Over the next 25 years, military leaders envision robots operating in the air, on land, and on and under the sea, taking over missions such as routine transportation, resupplying ships at sea, Special Forces support, supplying forces operating in the field, conducting routine inspections, carrying out decontamination and refueling operations, and material handling and combat engineering. There’s even a possibility these robots could be used for casualty evacuation and urban rescue.

The future will also bring specialized weapons for unmanned devices, such as programmable nanoweapons that use nanotechnology to create explosives that can select the blast yield desired, according to the DoD: Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap FY 2013-2038.

While the U.S. military continues to invest heavily in R&D for automated robotic weapon systems, Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) will become an increasingly popular choice in order to scale operations while lowering costs. These type of autonomous mobile robots, which are designed for specific behavior and tasks, can work in unpredictable environments. Their tasks include mapping, navigation, localization, perception, and locomotion; they are mainly used for transportation, inspection, and surveillance. The growing popularity of UGVs can partly be attributed to the lower cost of computing, and the advancement in sensors used for navigation.

These next generation mobile military robotics will require platforms that provide enhanced physical security monitoring and reporting capabilities. One example is a rugged all-terrain and all-weather outdoor security robot designed to provide round-the- clock physical security monitoring and reporting capabilities. These robots have the ability to provide mobile and camera platforms with a cohesive interface to secure assets and safety, and support indoor, outdoor, day or night security operations. With intelligent on-board analytics, the data remains within the military’s premise or data center, yet the visual analytics and security awareness that they require are still available.

And picture this: a mobile robot that includes a cloud-based visual analytics platform that shows enhanced results such as hair, shirt/trouser colors, abandoned package detection, license plate recognition (white-listing and black-listing), aggressive behavior detection, as well as foot and vehicle traffic patterns for anomalous behavior/pattern detection. It can also be easily controlled via a mobile client or web interface.

These smart robots allow military operators to:

  • Gain security awareness in areas that may be considered blind spots;
  • Receive alerts based on object recognition;
  • Identify and alert based on human body orientation (transition from vertical-to- horizontal i.e. slip/fall);
  • Connect to, and automatically receive dispatch information from a secure platform;
  • Stream H.264/H.265/MHPEG/JPEG and MPEG-4 video to ONVIF-compliant NVRs and security platforms.

There’s no doubt our changing national security environment poses unique challenges. But with the continued advancement of technology, we will see a future where robots are integrated more into military strategies and will play a key role in keeping our troops, innocent citizens, and our borders safe.

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