Does the world have to start worrying about ground drones?
Drones, unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) – whatever people call them, they are the future of war. Defense departments of different countries aim to have them because no army will be complete if they don’t have drones in their military assets inventory.
Oshkosh, a big name in the Defense Department, has developed a self-driving technology that provides military vehicles better sight or view than humans in murky combat situations. The Marine Corps is currently testing said technology.
Together with the US Army, the Marine Corps has conducted two tests on said technology developed by another leading contractor for the DOD, Lockheed Martin. Aside from developing the technology, Lockheed Martin has also developed a self-driving vehicle just like QinetiQ North America and Mesa Robotics. The US Army tested all those vehicles in 2013.
Heard about “AlphaDog”, also known as Legged Squad Support Systems? It’s a four-legged animal-like robot developed by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and Boston Dynamics – a defense company that has the ability to walk for 20 miles and carry 400 pounds of equipment before it needs refueling.
How about the “Terriers” which the British Army purchased? These are armored digging vehicles that are typically manned but can also be remotely operated. They are designed to:
- breach enemy obstacles
- excavate ditches and trenches
Having UGVs provide significant advantages on the battlefield because they provide freedom of movement or maneuver. They protect military personnel from explosive devices on the ground using their specialist search and clearance functions.
Indispensable War Tool
Britain has been using drones – e.g., their “Panama” and “Wheelbarrow”, mainly for bomb disposal operations. During the conflict between Iraq and Afghanistan, similar devices have been essential and a necessary indispensable war tool. From a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the United States is way ahead of the other countries in terms of drone inventory.
Ground Drones Of A Different League
While that may be true, the ground drones of today are not quite in the same league as the earlier versions. Most recent UGVs can zip around combat zones up to 40 mph, bringing food supplies and ammunition to soldiers, or dismantling or disabling enemy bombs.
Oshkosh recently conducted a technology trial where half of a Marine Corps convoy completing a rugged terrain course were unmanned, while Lockheed Martin system-fitted vehicles completed the same task in a U.S. Army Test.
Edge Of Driverless System
From the said trial, Lt. Col. Armond Thomas from the US Combined Arms Support Command Science and Technology Division noted that the driverless systems avoid human constraints on endurance. This means that the UGVs can be operated 24/7, guided by remote control by soldiers with only the tactical headsets on their heads for communication purposes, and do not need to be in combat gear.
This is a lot more advantageous compared to a human driver who needs sleep in order to perform his job properly and who is at risk of being attacked while driving the armored vehicle.
Less War Casualties
More importantly, with drones, armies will be able to fight wars with fewer soldiers. In other words, fewer body bags to send home from the war-torn zones. If anything, the biggest reason behind the development of drones is the desire to lessen casualties of war.
For any commander, the most traumatic and unbearable part of the job is sending home soldiers in body bags. With versatile ground drones, there’s always a replacement on standby.
Are drones replacing combat soldiers in the future?