Four-legged robot dogs emerging from U.S. Air Force planes scurried into an airfield in the Mojave Desert, offering a possible preview of the future of warfare.
But the exercise last week, one of the U.S. military’s largest high-tech experiments, wasn’t a movie set.
The robot dogs outside the aircraft flew onto a potentially hostile runway aboard an Air Force C-130 to search for threats before the people inside were exposed, according to an Air Force press release on Sept. 3.
Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for procurement, technology and logistics, said on a future battlefield, Soldiers said will be exposed to “a dizzying array of information” to evaluate, and will have to rely on nanosecond data synthesis to fight effectively.
“Evaluating data as an important resource for warfare, no less important than jet fuel or satellites, is key to next generation warfare,” said Roper in an Air Force press release on the ABMS exercise.
The final ABMS exercise, from August 31 to September 3, involved all branches of the U.S. military, including the Coast Guard, as well as dozen of industrial teams, and used 30 locations across the country.
Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada was one of them, and that’s where the robot dogs came in.
“The dogs give us pictures of the area while our defenders stay closer to the aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Lee Boston, a member of the Devil Raiders, the nickname for the Air Force’s 621st Contingency Response Group, said in the press release Air Force.
The dogs are called Vision 60 UGVs or “autonomous unmanned ground vehicles” by their manufacturer, Ghost Robotics from Philadelphia.
It advertises their ability to work in any terrain or environment, while also being customizable to carry a range of sensors and radios on a relatively simple platform for a dog robot.
“A central design principle for our legged robots is the lower mechanical complexity compared to other legged robots and even with conventional UGVs with wheel tracks,” says the company’s website.
“By reducing complexity, we naturally increase durability, flexibility and endurance,” it says. “Our Q-UGVs cannot be stopped.”
And in the US military of the future, they could be an integral part of what an Air Force publication calls the “kill chain”.
“We are studying how to … use ABMS to connect sensors to shooters across all battlefields, fast and threatened. The maturation of these concepts and skills is necessary to fight and win in the information age,” said General John Raymond , Chief of space operations, said in an Air Force publication.
“Our warfighters and combatants must fight at internet speeds to win,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown Jr.