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Military Robots / Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV)

  • FCS UGV Soldier
  • Dragon Runner
  • MPRS - Man Portable Robotic System
  • MTRS - Man Transportable Robotic System
  • ODS
  • PackBot
  • SMR - Small Mobile Robot
  • T3

  • FCS UGV Mule
  • Gladiator
  • RCSS - Robotic Combat Support System
  • RONS - Remote Ordnance Neutralization System

  • FCS UGV Armed Recon Vehicle
  • ARTS - All-purpose Remote Transport System
  • CAT - Crew-integration and Automation Testbed
  • XUV - Experimental Unmanned Vehicle
  • Robotic Follower

  • AOE - Automated Ordnance Excavator
  • CRS - Common Robotic System
  • Panther - M60
  • Panther II - M1
  • Within a decade technological advances could leave human operators out of the kill chain. The US and other militaries have said they have no plans to remove human supervision over the decision to use lethal force, despite advances in technology.

    Human Rights Watch has jointly published a report with the Harvard Law School's International Rights Clinic arguing that within 30 years militaries could be armed with autonomous "killer robots." They said such weapons would be inconsistent with international humanitarian law and would increase the risk to civilians during armed conflict. In order to prevent a move in that direction, the campaigners are pushing for a global deal that would prevent the use of such weapons, similar to agreements banning the use of landmines and cluster bombs. "One of the things that holds us back from barbarism in contexts of war is this distinction between combatants and civilians," said David Mepham, the United Kingdom director of Human Rights Watch. "And we are worried about a robotic weapon of the future not being able to tell the difference between a child holding out an ice cream and someone holding a weapon."

    Teleoperation capabilities, or the ability for an operator to manipulate and control a UGV remotely from a safe location through a tether or radio link, is the most mature control technology available and therefore is an area of emphasis for all Services in developing first generation robotics programs. Teleoperation capabilities are important to the warfighter because they enable standoff operationsand thereby reduce or remove operator risks in highly stressful and dangerous environments, such as minefields and in areas of potential explosive hazards.

    However, these capabilities alone do little to reduce operator task loading or to reduce the ratio of operators to platforms. Moreover, it is generally recognized that future second generation high payoff robotic capabilities can only be realized when platforms exhibit semi-autonomous mobilitycapabilities, navigation, and mission accomplishment.

    To fully realize similar capabilities to today's manned systems, semi autonomous UGVs must be developed that demonstrate increasingly tactical human like behaviors in route planning and execution, obstacle avoidance, and mission performance. Additionally, new technologies must be investigated to improve mobility of UGV platforms in unstructured environments including complex terrain and urban settings using novel locomotion means and intelligent control systems.

    Department of Defense (DOD) Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) save lives and improve national defense capabilities by providing agencies of the Department of Defense (DOD) with the control system architectures, advanced sensor systems, research services, and standards to achieve autonomous mobility for unmanned ground vehicles.

    In 1990, in response to Congressional concerns, a number of Department of Defense (DoD) advanced development projects related to ground vehicle robotics were consolidated under the Joint Robotics Program (JRP) directed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The Joint Robotics Program Master Plan (JRPMP) is prepared annually and provided to Congress. The plan provides a single, integrated DoD document that lays out the strategies for acquiring first-generation UGVs and for developing technologies critical to follow- on systems. The JRPMP describes the individual projects and the management framework for their execution. It is an OSD management tool for fulfilling its responsibility to oversee the Joint Robotics Program.

    The DOD initiated plans for the deployment of robotic vehicle platforms in the battlefield and plans to standardize the architecture and interfaces. This will encourage the use of commercially available "plug-and-play" components and provide reusability and interoperability on a variety of ground vehicles.

    Robotics industry leaders point out that advances in military, transportation, medical, and other non-manufacturing robotics applications, where research and development investments are justified by dramatic potential benefits, will provide the technologies to advance future generations of robots for application in manufacturing. Industrial robots will trail in technology development, adopting advanced technology as it is proven to be reliable and cost effective; autonomous mobile systems for military applications represent the forefront of robotics research.

    A variety of potential UGV applications to land operations can increase mission performance, combat effectiveness, and personnel safety. These include detection, neutralization, and breaching of minefields and other obstacles; RSTA; UXO clearance; EOD; physical security; logistics; fire-fighting; urban warfare; weapons employment; and operations in contaminated and other denied areas. The threat of encountering chemical and biological weapons in Third World conflicts continues.

    The M60 Panther and the Mini-Flail prototype mine proofing systems continue to be used with great success in Bosnia and Kosovo, and have resulted in additional procurement orders for six more Mini-Flails and the fielding of Abrams Panther, based upon an M1-IP (Initial Production) chassis in 2002. The RONS has been fielded by each of the Services, and is undergoing development of upgrades via a Continuous Improvement Program (CIP). Operation Enduring Freedom has resulted in an additional United States Air Force (USAF) requirement for 30 RONS. The Air Force is using the All-Purpose Remote Transport System (ARTS) overseas for force protection and homeland defense in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Twenty-three units have been fielded with an additional procurement order for 39 more units resulting in full operational capability in late FY05 with the fielding of 62 ARTS.

    Requirements for these and other UGV systems have been and are being generated. An example is the emerging Marine Corps requirement for the UGV currently named Gladiator. In response to the maturation of JRP developments and requirements, OSD established an Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) program element (PE 0604709D) in FY97, to continue formal acquisition programs.

    Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics"

    1. A robot may not injure a human being or,
      through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings
      except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
    3. A robot must protect its own existence
      as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

    The findings of journalist-soldier General S.L.A. Marshall about combat fire ratios — particularly that in World War II less than 25 percent of American combat infantrymen in battle fired their weapons—have been controversial since Marshall published them in his 1947 book, Men Against Fire. He continued to apply his methodology—the after-action, group interview with enlisted men—during the Korean War, where he concluded that more than half the front-line soldiers were firing their weapons.

    The fully autonomous weapon or "killer robot" has not yet been developed. Technology, however, is moving toward increasing autonomy. Such weapons would select and pull the trigger on targets without human intervention. Several robotic systems with various degrees of autonomy and lethality are in use by Britain, Israel, the United States and South Korea. They say other nations, such as China and Russia, are believed to be moving toward these systems.

    In November 2013 an international coalition called for a ban on fully autonomous weapons known as "killer robots." The 45-member Campaign to Stop Killer Robots says it wants the United Nations to draft an international treaty to outlaw the use of these robotic weapons. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots toook its case to governments attending the annual meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva. The group of non-governmental organizations said it wanted the U.N. gathering to agree to add fully autonomous weapons to the Convention's work program in 2014.

    Noel Sharkey chairs the International Committee for Robot Arms Control and is a founding member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. He says autonomous weapons should be banned outright. "The big problem for me is that there are no robot systems that can discriminate between civilian targets and military targets unless they are very, very clearly marked in some way…so, the idea of having robots going out into the field and selecting their own targets is to me, is just horrifying. It cannot work, " said Sharkey.

    The director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch and a member of the campaign, Steve Goose, warns that killer robots will become a reality if governments do not act now to ban them. He says the technology and doctrine are headed toward greater autonomy on the battlefield. While fewer and fewer soldiers are on the battlefield, he says many civilians remain. Goose says a line must be drawn on a weapons system that would be able to select and attack targets automatically. He says this concept crosses a fundamental moral and ethical line.

    "Armed robotic weapons systems should not make life and death decisions on the battlefield. There is simply something inherently wrong with that," said Goose. "So, they need to be banned on ethical grounds. We think they also need to be banned on legal grounds. If and when a killer robot commits a war crime, violates international humanitarian law…who would be held accountable, who would be responsible for that violation?"

    Goose says in recent months, fully autonomous weapons have gone from an obscure issue to one that is commanding worldwide attention. He says that since May, 34 countries, including several that are developing these systems, have openly expressed concern about the dangers the weapons pose. He notes that in 1995, the Convention on Conventional Weapons created a protocol to the treaty, which pre-emptively banned blinding lasers. Goose says he believes killer robots could become the second such weapon to be prohibited before it is ever used on the field.

    The first multinational discussions on the rising specter of ‘autonomous killer robots’ was hosted in May 2014 by the United Nations to consider whether the global community should ban the new technology – before it’s too late. Acting Director-General of the UN Office in Geneva Michael Møller said the time to take action against killer robots is now. “All too often international law only responds to atrocities and suffering once it has happened,” he said. “You have the opportunity to take pre-emptive action and ensure that the ultimate decision to end life remains firmly under human control."

    The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, an international coalition of non-governmental organizations, successfully petitioned the UN to consider the question of ‘autonomous weapons systems’ in a Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) meeting.

    One of the founders of the NGO, Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams, urged a ban on “autonomous robots,” which the US Pentagon defines as weapons that "once activated, can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human operator.... “Talking about the problems posed by these future weapons is a good place to start, but a ban needs to be put in place urgently if we are to avoid a future where compassionless robots decide who to kill on the battlefield,” Williams said, as quoted by Forbes.

    Williams teamed up with 19 other Nobel Peace laureates to demand a ban on the lethal technology. At the same time, Human Rights Watch (HRW), another participant of the Campaign, released its own report detailing the potential threats posed by machines that have no ability to implement “human judgment” in the heat of the battle. “In policing, as well as war, human judgment is critically important to any decision to use a lethal weapon,” said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch, before the talks. “Governments need to say no to fully autonomous weapons for any purpose and to preemptively ban them now, before it is too late.”

    "The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots" urged governments attending an April 2015 UN conference to prevent the development of a lethal robotic system that holds the power of life or death without any human control. Many of the 120 states that are part of the Convention on Conventional Weapons participated in the meeting of experts on “lethal autonomous weapons systems.”

    Throughout the Dune novels, Frank Herbert frequently referred to the the Butlerian Jihad, the war in which humans wrested their freedom from "thinking machines." In his novel "Dune: The Butlerian Jihad", Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson bring to life the story of that war, a tale previously seen only in tantalizing hints and clues. Serena Butler's passionate grief ignites the struggle that will liberate humans from their machine masters; here is the tale of the Zensunni Wanderers, who escape bondage to flee to the desert world where they will declare themselves the Free Men of Dune. And here is the backward, nearly forgotten planet of Arrakis, where traders have discovered the remarkable properties of the spice melange.

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