Army Seeks to Unleash a New Breed of Robot

Mike O'Brien

The U.S. Army wants to get rid of nearly half of its small robotic vehicle fleet and replace them with a new breed of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) that can handle multiple missions.

Small robots have been widely used in Afghanistan over the past 10 years to search cramped spaces for bombs.

Army equipment officials have invested more than $700 million in the mini marvels, but as America’s involvement in the war winds down the service is left with a mishmash of systems that have very little in the way of parts commonality.

The service is now planning to retool about 2,700 UGVs and dismantle nearly 2,500 of the older, outdated robots, reports.

The Marines are also working with the Army on developing a common robotic platform for counter explosive ordinance disposal work.

Both services want UGVs with a common chassis with modular mission payloads to increase efficiency and ultimately reduce costs.

As part of the new drive for UGV commonality, the services are also looking for a common controller as well as alternative navigation systems.

Army Lt. Col. Stuart Hatfield, branch chief of Soldier Systems and Unmanned Ground Systems for Army G8, said UGVs have been a Godsend in recent years.

"There are tasks that soldiers right now won’t do without their robot," he said. "Think cave and tunnel reconnaissance. A soldier doesn’t want to grab the pistol and flashlight like they did back in Vietnam and dive down in there and be a tunnel rat."