Tin soldiers: miniature combat robots
"Green metal boxes with black stamps. It is written on white screen letters: ‘Vietnamese cointern of American veteran Joe’. And slightly lower: ‘Twenty infantry, ten helicopters, two machine gunners, two doctors, two bzuki, four jeep’. Below, in the corner: ‘Morris on the manufacture of toys’. <. > They smashed the camp at the chest. Tiny soldiers again turned back and forth, installed a tent, delivered drowned on jeeps. Above the soldier who hit the foot, the doctor bent. The remaining eight helicopters guarded the camp, barking at the height of the coffee table ". (Stephen King "Battle")
From eagles to swallow
In the first half of the 20th century, science fiction imagined military equipment of the future in the form of giant designs in the spirit of Steam Punk. In their opinion, at the end of the 20th century, giant ships, airplanes and tanks should have reigned on the battlefields, not to mention the giant walking robots. Military always prone to giantia.
However, the opposite trend has been observed lately. Local operations require high accuracy, and associated damage must be minimized – these causes have become the basis of a new direction: miniaturization of automatic combat technology. True, while we are not talking about combat cars, but about unarmed intelligence. Aviation has become the first swallow – in addition to large flying machines such as Predator over the past few years, many models of lungs have appeared on the market, completely autonomous drones, and from year to year they are becoming more and more. Despite the fact that in size and execution, they are more reminiscent of toys than combat techniques, the military around the world very closely look at these "airplanes": they are attracted to organize exploration and observation for each small division. Made of foamed polymers and equipped with very quiet electric motors, models with a wing scale to 1 m from a distance of several tens of meters almost invisible – and not only for the eye, but also for radar or thermal sensors, usually tuned to the search for larger goals. To knock them down from small arms, it is not easy – you need to catch up and get into the "brain" or in line with the engines, because with single holes, the bullets are simply punched through holes in foam wings, not causing serious harm. While they put only cameras, communications and telemetry. But it is so far.
Sinny veteran Joe
On Earth with autonomy of things, things are worse – as the experience of Darpa Grand Challenge competitions and Urban Challenge showed (see. "PM" № 12’2005 and 11’2007), crossed and urban area are quite complex conditions. Yes, and computing power requires considerable, so on miniaturization of autonomous apparatuses is not yet necessary. Therefore, the military today make a bet on remote control, especially since it is easier to master it than the control of the same UAV, – in the end, it is very close to driving a car.
Such devices have long been in service with various special divisions that are engaged in disposal of explosive devices. And refined taking into account the harsh combat conditions – the army helps. As in aviation, there is also a tendency to miniaturization. No fighting robot tanks, as in the famous Soviet cartoon "Polygon", put on the story of the science fiction writer of the North of Gansovsky (with the exception of remotely managed mine trawls). And, of course, no anthropomorphism – the fighting robots of the future is unlikely to be similar to the "Terminator". In Iraq, the American army helps a few much more modest robots of Talon and Swords company FOSTER-MILLER on a tracked chassis (weight category about 50 kg), as well as lighter (about 20 kg) Robots Packbot company Irobot, which is more famous for their home robots -Clap Slapsows Roomba.
This year, 25 teams from India, USA, Canada and Japan took part in the 11th international competitions of automatic submarines (Annual International Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition, AUV, and the University of Maryland. Competition Organizer, Association of Automatic Apparatuses (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems), a non-profit organization that combines more than 1400 companies from 50 countries – puts its task to stimulate the creation of full-featured robots moving on Earth, in the air, water and under water. Under the terms of the competition, the devices were to overcome a really difficult underwater "bar of obstacles" about 15 m. It included passage through the gate, swimming along the curved pipe, the mooring to buoy, detect the acoustic beacon and the "hanging" near it, the rise of the subject from the bottom and the rise with it to the surface of the water within the floating target-ring. The military is very interested in devices and technologies that are demonstrated during these competitions. Irobot During the competition announced the purchase of a SEAGLIDER underwater supply license for military and cartographers developed at Washington University. True, miniaturizing sea robots developers are not too much striving. So the miniature version of the aircraft carrier group in the near future we are unlikely to see. Although who knows.
Brother vacuum cleaner
PackBot – In general, one of the most massive and flexible military vehicles, more than 1,200 different modifications of which work around the world, helping to neutralize bombs, conduct intelligence, detect explosives and snipers. It can be cast (literally – just throwing through the door or window opening: the chassis is withstanding acceleration to 300 g, that is, designed for painless drop from a height of more than 2 m per concrete floor or even dropping from a helicopter) to the buildings that need to be examined on The presence of an armed enemy or explosive devices. An unusual tracked chassis makes it easy to overcome the steps of stairs, which are usually a problem for small wheels. In addition, additional caterpillars give the robot the opportunity to "get up on tiptoe" to, for example, look into the room over the windowsill. On the PackBot platform, you can install a very wide range of various accessories – from miniature mine trawls and manipulators for operations with mini and unexploded ammunition, lanterns, cameras, thermal insulation thermal dispersion, chemical sensors for detecting explosives to special shotguns or water cannons for destruction of explosive devices. They are not armed with firearms, but even despite this, they turned out to be so effective that in Afghanistan an unsolicited rule for the American military was "Robot – Forward". As one colonel of the American army was met, "if a robot dies, I don’t have to write an official letter with condolences to his parents". Not only the American military, but also law enforcement agencies are examined to robots: Last year, the company proposed to arm a Packbot electrostrooper type Taser for use in the police.