Sponsored by The British Robotics Seed Fund
17 Sep 18. Russian roboticist sees all-but-lethal autonomous weapon systems by 2030. In the complexity of war, pressing the trigger still carries significant weight. It is the definitive moment, the act around which entire chains of command, industrial complexes, logistical chains, and political rationales are built. And soon, the decision to press the trigger may be the last part of battle left up to humans, even if it’s mechanical fingers that actually do the shooting.
“Today, an operator makes most decisions for existing robots – in the future, military drones will make all decisions except firing the weapon,” said Mikhail Medvedev, director of a robotics institute at the Southern Federal University in Russia’s Rostov Oblast.
The comments came while outlining a broader vision of a Russian military made up of mostly autonomous robots by 2030. But first, the future of autonomous weapon systems seems to keep bleeding into the present. Medvedev suggested that we might start seeing autonomous machines deployed as early as 2023. That seems overly optimistic, since early battlefield tests of robots like Russia’s Uran-9 were underwhelming at best.
More interesting is that Medvedev cites Russia’s official military robotics roadmap for a timeline, a document that also calls for a rising share of of unmanned and robotics technology in the armed forces. Modernization into the 2020s may have the characteristics of a parallel arms race, where countries iterate on similar machines and reach different conclusions about doctrine, like we saw with tanks in the interregnum between the world wars. At this stage, even if the machines don’t quite work yet, the goal of autonomous machines on the battlefield and doing the fighting is enough to shape how other nations plan their own acquisition strategies.
“There is a lot of development and lots of R&D work in this area, and Russia sees itself in a technological race against the United States/NATO,” says Samuel Bendett, a research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, “so a potential breakthrough in autonomous military systems may be possible.”
Medvedev’s work also fits into the broader Russian effort to sponsor student competitions and special degree programs around designing new military robots. These efforts are rebuilding military industrial pipelines that had fallen out of use for decades.
The end result, should it come to fruition, will be a military in which robots do most of the moving and targeting, and humans remotely press the triggers. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
14 Sep 18. RoKA outlines plans for new ‘Dronebot Warrior’ unit. The Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) aims to formally establish a specialised unit that will operate and develop new concepts of operation for unmanned aerial and unmanned ground vehicles (UAVs and UGVs) by 2019, an army spokesperson told Jane’s at the DX Korea 2018 exhibition. The new unit – which is known locally as Dronebot Jeontudan (‘Warrior’) – was first announced in December 2017 to enable the service to create the necessary command and human resource infrastructure, such as a new military occupational specialty to recruit suitable candidates within its ranks. The unit is expected to be “battalion-sized” and will begin operations in October 2018, although it will only be fully staffed by 2019. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
12 Sep 18. Hanwha unveils infantry support UGV development. South Korea’s Hanwha Group has unveiled a new 4×4 modular unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) development programme that is aimed at addressing a future Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) requirement for autonomous tactical support platforms.
Under development by Hanwha Land Systems’ Defense Robot Team since October 2017, the Multi-Purpose Unmanned Vehicle (MPUV) – which is 2.84 m long, 1.5 m wide, and 1.67 m tall – leverages on the experience gained from its earlier 4?4 STAR-M4 logistics UGV programme and has a fully laden weight and payload capacity of 860 kg.
Unlike the smaller 350 kg Star M4 that is specifically designed to reduce the load of dismounted infantry by transporting their weapons and ammunition, mission-critical equipment and food, water, and medical supplies on unpaved roads and cross-country terrain, the MPUV can also undertake reconnaissance and combat operations to augment forward-deployed infantry units with a lightweight remote weapon station (RWS) armed with a S&T Motiv 5.56mm K3 machine gun.
Other mission equipment can include a gunfire locator system that enables the MPUV to detect incoming 5.56mm, 7.62mm, and 12.7mm calibre fire at distances of up to 3 km, triangulate possible sources, and display these locations on the handheld operator’s console display. According to Hanwha engineers, the system and offers over 85% accuracy during company trials.
A multirotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) can also be integrated into the MPUV, functioning as an organic offboard sensor and communications relay to extend the vehicle’s control and data transmission range. Alternatively, the rear payload bay can be used to evacuate a wounded soldier.
The electric-powered vehicle features all-wheel drive (AWD) and all-wheel steering (AWS) capabilities for enhanced manoeuvrability, and is capable of carrying up to 160 kg of stores at a maximum speed of 20km/h over uneven terrain. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
The British Robotics Seed Fund is the first SEIS-qualifying investment fund specialising in UK-based robotics businesses. The focus of the fund is to deliver superior returns to investors by making targeted investments in a mixed basket of the most innovative and disruptive businesses that are exploiting the new generation of robotics technologies in defence and other sector applications.
Automation and robotisation are beginning to drive significant productivity improvements in the global economy heralding a new industrial revolution. The fund allows investors to benefit from this exciting opportunity, whilst also delivering the extremely attractive tax reliefs offered by the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS). For many private investors, the amount of specialist knowledge required to assess investments in robotics is not practical and hence investing through a fund structure makes good sense.
The fund appoints expert mentors to work with each investee company to further maximise the chance of success for investors. Further details are available on request.