Robotics manufacturers are scrambling for more than a half billion dollars in Pentagon contracts for battlefield robots that will defuse bombs and scout ahead for soldiers on the battlefield.
That’s according to a new Associated Press report about the U.S. military’s efforts to purchase thousands of “backpack-sized” robots that troops can deploy to take bullets in dangerous situations — and its fear that it could be outpaced by similar efforts by China and Russia.
These battlefield robots aren’t killer bots capable of using lethal force autonomously, a class of machine that is currently being debated worldwide.
Rather, U.S. military leaders are interested in intermediary devices like Endeavor Robotics’ treadmill-sporting Centaur bot, which can perform reconnaissance and disable explosives — bots that soldiers can put in harm’s way instead of themselves.
The investments are driven in part by a fear that international adversaries could come to dominate battlefield robotics. During a May senate hearing, according to the AP, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley warned that China and Russia “are investing heavily and very quickly” in air, sea, and ground bots.
“My personal estimate,” Milley said, “is that robots will play a significant role in combat inside of a decade or a decade and a half.”
READ MORE: Army Looks for a Few Good Robots, Sparks Industry Battle [Associated Press]
More on military robots: The UK Is Developing Autonomous Killer Robots