Robots poised to take over wide range of U.S. military roles

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Technology insiders are predicting it won’t be long before robots have taken over key roles within the main U.S. military branches, performing everything from mine sweeps to truck driving.

And not all are happy about the development.

As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported: the wide sweep of robotic technology into America’s military could put “both rear-echelon and front-line positions in jeopardy.”


Scholars who’ve studied the advancements in technology through the years say robots will soon hold notable positions among the ranks of the‎ military’s operational strategists. And while robots are widely regarded as acceptable replacements for mundane and repetitive tasks, some caution it’s important to keep in check the roles for artificial intelligence, to make sure technology never replaces the human mind and instinct needed for effective leadership.

Regardless, the technology’s coming at a rapid pace.

“Just as in the civilian economy, automation will likely have a big impact on military organizations in logistics and manufacturing,” said Michael Horowitz, a University of Pennsylvania professor who’s considered a leading expert on the field of robotic weaponry, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Cuts in military budgets have fueled researchers and developers to look for cheaper ways to maintain America’s mission readiness.

“The U.S. military is very likely to pursue forms of automation that reduce ‘back-office’ costs over time, as well as remove soldiers from non-combat deployments where they might face risk from adversaries on fluid battlefields, such as in transportation,” Horowitz said.

Other uses for robots in the military?

As transport drivers.

Driver-less vehicles are making headway in the civilian sectors of taxicab, train and trucking services. It won’t be long before this same technology is inserted into military use, via robot-controlled Army vehicles.

And that’s just a drop in the bucket of expected sectors where robots will soon enter.

Robots are also expected to make inroads in the Air Force’s ordnance and supply units, shipping products around the world; in the Navy’s legal research departments, scanning, collating and even analyzing documents and data; in all the branches’ operating rooms, acting as assistants to nurses and physicians; and in naval operations involving the scouring and deactivating of sea mines.

“Robots will continue to replace the dirty, dull and dangerous jobs, and this will affect typically more uneducated and unskilled workers,” said Henrik Christensen, director of the Institute for Contextual Robotics at UC San Diego. “You need to look at the mundane things. Logistics tasks will not be solved by people driving around in trucks. Instead, you will have fewer drivers. The lead driver in a convoy might be human, but every truck following behind will not be. The jobs that are the most boring will be the ones that get replaced because they’re the easiest to automate.”

That’s not even including drones.

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