Automating the Battlefield

Another year, another robot heavy military exercise. Eighteen months or so ago, it was Unmanned Warrior, a marine based large scale demonstration of unmanned and autonomous systems led by the Royal Navy  (previously blogged as Drone War Exercises).

Next up is Autonomous Warrior, the 2018 Army Warfighting Experiment. Apparently:

Autonomous Warrior will test a range of prototype unmanned aerial and ground cargo vehicles which aim to reduce the danger to troops during combat.

The British Army is set to launch the four-week exercise on November 12, with a Battlegroup from 1 Armed Infantry brigade providing the exercising troops and taking responsibility of command and control.

I wonder if the exercise is building on early results from the autonomous last mile resupply that was launched by the Defence and Security Accelerator last year with the following timeline:

In passing, the testing / performance criteria for competition entries provides a handy checklist of key considerations:

  • Non stop range
  • System lift capacity (mass)
  • Payload size and shape (volume)
  • Speed
  • Turn around time and effort
  • Terrain types
  • Operator control requirements / autonomy levels (eg Automatic route planning, obstacle avoidance, tasking)
  • Contested environment (eg no GPS)
  • Physical Environmental conditions (eg wind)
  • Supportability and Interchangeability

Spend on military robots for deployment  also seems to be increasing, in the US at least. For example, Bloomberg reported recently (The U.S. Army Is Turning to Robot Soldiers) that:

In April, the [US] Army awarded a $429.1 million contract to two Massachusetts companies, Endeavor Robotics of Chelmsford and Waltham-based QinetiQ North America, for small bots weighing fewer than 25 pounds. This spring, Endeavor also landed two contracts worth $34 million from the Marine Corps for small and midsized robots. … In October, the Army awarded Endeavor $158.5 million for a class of more than 1,200 medium robots, called the Man-Transportable Robotic System, Increment II, weighing less than 165 pounds.

In the air, UK use of aerial drones is in accordance with the the 84 page Joint Doctrine Publication Unmanned aircraft systems (JDP 0-30.2); for a full list of joint doctrine publications see the Joint Doctrine Publication (JDP) collection.

I’m not sure if there’s a reserve force that specifically recruits volunteers with skills in robotics, but I notice there is one for techies interested in matters relating to cyber-warfare/cyber-defence: Joint Cyber Reserve Force (CRF). You should probably read the JDP Cyber Primer first, though…

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