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Sunday, April 03, 2011

Trend Report 2011: From Battlefield to Safe Urban Transport

Credit: Google Car
Robotland Robotics Trend Report 2011
Robotics has developed from science fiction into a strategic technology to revitalize industries, secure welfare and develop society. In recent years new robotics visions and roadmaps have been developed by leading roboticists proposing new concepts such as Japanese "Humanoid Servants", Korean "Ubiquitous Robotic Companions", European "Soft, Sentient Robot Companions for Citizens", or American "Unmanned Robotic Army".

In a serie of reports Robotland will describe some global robotics trends to create awareness and insights that might affect markets, industry and society in the near future. 

Battlefield Robotics
Military applications account for a growing number of robot installations. The U.S. and much of the rest of the world are betting big on the role of aerial drones. Especially in the United States the U.S. military has set clear goals on the capabilities of future unmanned systems. When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, it had just a handful of drones. Today, U.S. forces have around 7,000 unmanned vehicles in the air and an additional 12,000 on the ground, used for tasks including reconnaissance, airstrikes and bomb disposal. In 2009, for the first time, the U.S. Air Force trained more "pilots" for unmanned aircraft than for manned fighters and bombers.
This development leads also to concerns and debate about the use of robots on the battlefield. Almost 50 countries either already have or are developing war robots. Some researchers fear that advances in robotic systems will lead to more countries committing to war, since robots would be taking the place of humans on the battlefield.  Last year a group of researchers already called the international community to urgently commence a discussion about an arms control regime to reduce the threat posed by these systems. 

Unmanned Ground Vehicles for Safer Trafic
How applications for many military-derived robots can be transferred into civil applications is another issue. For example, UAVs for police and coastguard use are natural successors to military UAVs. The first promising examples of unmanned technology application on civil ground are the Google car, a visionary step from cyberspace into robotspace, and the European OFAV project, driving a van 13.000 km from Italy to Shanghai. It shows that it is possible to move people and goods in real life conditions with virtually no human intervention. The demand of greener and safer transport systems may be a strong driving force for further development of driverless vehicles. But many technical, and also legal, ethical and social issues have to be solved before the driverless fleet will arrive next to your door.
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Robotland  is watching and mindmapping global robotics trends continuously and systematically to identify disruptive innovations, market trends, business blind spots, market barriers and new investment opportunities in more than 60 countries.  Robotlands Global Robotics Brain has recently been featured of IEEE Spectrum Automaton  



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