April 24, 2012 1 Comment
The U.S. military has become increasingly dependent on robots in the last 10 years, stemming from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, in 2004, the U.S. Army only had 162 robots; now it boasts 7,000. The robots are used for a variety of purposes including, “scout for booby traps and roadside bombs” and “lift heavy objects. There are robots that can be “tossed through a window to check out a room” before soldiers enter the premises. Unmanned vehicles such as drones have become regular features of battle.
However, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, there is some concern that funding for robotics programs linked to military endeavors will be eliminated. On the other hand, leaner military budgets might actually increase the acquisition of robots since there is a “heightened emphasis to do more with less,” says a senior equity analyst at BB&T Capital Markets. In the grand scheme of the things the United States would prefer to have fewer boots on the ground in any military operation, therefore safeguarding the lives of American soldiers.
Major robotics companies like iRobot Corp. and QinetiQ are often supported by regular Defense Department budgets, so their programs shouldn’t be affected by the winding down of wartime operations abroad. Military robotics are taking the place of older specialized (read: special-ops) equipment like night-vision goggles which are now widely available to troops. The unmanned aspect of military procedures is an attractive outcome of the increased research and development spending in advanced technology sectors. Additional outcomes include decreased wartime spending and decreased casualties because of the ability of robots to multiply the military force of an operation without increasing troop numbers.
Posted by: Devon Thorsell
Source: The Wall Street Journal