We haven't reached the point of being able to say that we are living in the robotic future envisioned by decades and decades of cheesy science fiction. However, it is clear that robots are becoming more and more common in a wider and wider range of contexts, not least because there is enormous interest in unlocking their immense potential. As such, it seems safe to say that the future will be seeing plenty of military robots as well. Here are 10 ways that robots might see more use in the wars of the future:
1. Sentry Guns
Sentry guns aren't the image that will come to mind for most people when robots are brought up. However, there can be no doubt about the fact that weapons that can aim themselves as well as fire themselves on an automatic basis count as such. It is interesting to note that sentry guns are not a new concept but rather something that has already started seeing use, as shown by how the South Korean manufacturer revealed the automated gun turret called the Super aEgis 2 in 2010.
Patrollers enable militaries to maintain control over entire regions. Unfortunately, human patrollers are susceptible to boredom as well as a wide range of other potential distractions, meaning that there is plenty of room for more robotic patrollers that will more about on preprogrammed routes while being subjected to human oversight.
3. Smart Bullets
Smart bullets are a concept that has been explored by a number of interested parties. In short, the term is used for any bullet that can do anything besides the basics. For example, a bullet that can change course is considered to be a smart bullet. Likewise, a bullet that undergoes a self-destruct past a certain range for the purpose of limiting collateral damage is considered to be a smart bullet as well. These concepts might sound like science fiction and nothing but science fiction, but they are already being developed by interested parties.
4. Reconnaissance Drones
Reconnaissance drones are already seeing widespread use. In the future, it seems safe to say that they will be seeing even more use. In part, this is because reconnaissance drones will become more and more capable, thus making them better and better as an option when compared with the other possibilities out there. However, it should also be mentioned that reconnaissance is one of those critical functions that won't be disappearing from how wars are waged anytime soon.
5. Kill Drones
Of course, kill drones are already seeing use as well. Certainly, if people pay attention to the news, chances are good that they will have already heard of kill drones being used by the United States in a number of countries. However, it is worth mentioning that other countries are interested in such technologies as well, meaning that they have been pouring resources into similar projects.
6. Suicide Drones
In a certain sense, suicide drones can be considered toned-down versions of smart missiles. After all, they are pretty much commercial drones that have been jury-rigged to carry a payload of explosives, thus giving their users more precision than otherwise possible. In recent times, a Russian manufacturer has started making suicide drones, so it seems reasonable to say that there could be more automated versions in the future as well.
7. Bomb Disposal Robots
Bomb disposal is very, very dangerous. As a result, it makes sense for bomb disposal units to send in robots rather than human beings whenever and wherever possible. Given how so many modern conflicts seem to be asymmetrical in nature, bomb disposal robots seem like they will continue to see widespread military use for a long, long time to come.
8. Rough Terrain Transportation
Feet cannot hope to beat either treads or wheels on flat surfaces. This is one of the numerous reasons why tanks won't be replaced by legged mecha no matter how cool the latter might look. However, it is interesting to note that legs are better than either treads or wheels for moving over particularly rough terrain, which is why interested individuals might have come upon stories of modern armies using mules and other pack animals for hauling supplies over difficult ground. Of course, pack animals have serious biological limitations, which is why at least one military has looked into the potential of legged robots for transportation purposes. Granted, BigDog was discontinued because its gas-powered engine generated too much noise for it to see use in combat, but considering the improvements that are continuing to be made when it comes to electric engines, it isn't unimaginable for a spiritual successor of some kind to show up at some point in the future.
Logistics isn't particularly exciting, but it is nonetheless a critical factor for military victory. After all, an army can't fight if its soldiers don't have enough food, ammunition, and other important supplies. Likewise, it doesn't matter what kind of supplies an army has stashed away in its depots unless it can organize the delivery of those supplies to those who need them when they need them. In the future, robots are very likely to see use throughout the logistics process of militaries in the same way that they are going to see use throughout the logistics processes of businesses and other major organizations. One example would be robots that can actually handle moving supplies from place to place. Another example would be robots responsible for monitoring inventories so that they can make smart reactions to changes as necessary.
10. Powered Exoskeleton
Powered exoskeletons are a very popular concept in speculative media. However, they aren't constrained to the realm of fiction, seeing as how both commercial and military versions already exist. As powered exoskeletons become more and more sophisticated, it is likely that they will have more and more automation built into them, thus blurring the line between them and wearable robots. This is particularly true because there is already a wearable robot called HAL, which was made to support disabled people, elderly people, and those who work in physically demanding jobs.
Written by Allen Lee
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