There are an estimated 2,000 robots in Afghanistan today. They're mainly used for explosive ordnance disposal, but they're branching out. Equipped with wire cutters, spades, rakes and cameras they are used for clearing supply routes and inspecting vehicles at checkpoints.
The US Defence Budget for 2012 continues strong funding for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) that enhance intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. The base budget includes $4.8 billion to develop and procure additional Global Hawk Class (RQ-4), Predator Class (MQ-1/9), and other less expensive, low-altitude systems.
Robert Moses, head of the government and industrial robots division of Boston-based iRobot, expects the number of Unmanned Ground robots will rise from 1:50 to 1:30 troops in combat. Today, one soldier typically operates one robot, but with improvements in robots' ability to operate autonomously, Moses foresights one operator controlling 5 to 10 robots. iRobot PacBots cost today $100,000 to $200,000 apiece depending on their sensor packages.
US$ 38 Million for Spiderbots
BAE Systems, 2nd largest global defence company based on 2009 revenues, develop miniature robots, Spiderbots, to to enhance warfighter's tactical situational awareness in urban and complex terrain by enabling the autonomous operation of a collaborative ensemble of multifunctional, mobile microsystems. BAE Systems leads the $38 million MAST project in alliance of researchers and scientists from the Army, academia and industry.
|Credit: ARL CTA|
Bio-inspired Spiderbots are small scale, stealth designed robots that can maneuver in confined spaces, autonomously and in swarms with minimum human control for navigation.
A senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Peter W. Singer, and author of "Wired for War", calls robots on the battlefield "an amazing revolution" that "change not just how wars are fought, but also the politics, economics, laws, and ethics that surround war itself."
Robot Arms Control Needed
At the First Experts Workshop on Limiting Armed Tele-Operated and Autonomous Systems in Berlin 2010 the risks and dangers that military robots pose to peace and international security and to civilians in war were discussed and resulted in a statement that proclaims "an urgent need to bring into existence an arms control regime to regulate the development, acquisition, deployment, and use of armed tele-operated and
autonomous robotic weapons."
Nicholas Hunt-Bull, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Political Theory in the School of Arts and Sciences, Southern New Hamshire University, argues in his 2006 essay A Neo-Luddite Manifesto: or Why I Do Not Love Robots "we should be leery of embracing ubiquitous use of robots in society. Once the technology is deployed it will be too late to go back."
See also: Warning signals about the "Robotic Moment" and Robotics in the Mind of Ray Kurzweil for further reflection.