by Grady Noll
| February 23, 2018
Will we use giant robots in the military? The likelihood of the US military making use of well-functioning giant robots is higher than you’d think. In fact, the military has successfully used several different types of robots for years. Drones like the MQ-9 Reaper supplement our air fleets and hunt down targets. Robots like the QinetiQ TALON aid in surveillance, bomb defusing and item retrieval. There is so much interest in improving robotics that the US government has invested heavily in robotics companies like Boston Dynamics to build military-grade robots that can actually walk. So how close are we to incorporating giant versions into real-world military situations?
Anything is possible as long as you have enough of two resources: time and capital. To make a robot walk, a substantial amount of time and capital must be invested in developing and testing various sensors, motors, actuators and code. These subsystems are an attempt by humanity to completely recreate skeletal joints and mimic the nervous system.
Astoundingly, the investments we’ve made have gotten us far. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) spent $42 million1 to develop the Legged Squad Support System (LS3). DARPA also spent $26.3 million to develop PETMAN, Boston Dynamics’ first bipedal bot.2 As we saw from the Giant Robot Duel, MegaBots, Inc. was able to create a 12-ton robot with $2.5 million, although it had to use tracks to move.
MegaBots has shown the desire to work with IHMC Robotics in order to give their robots better balance. So what would happen if Boston Dynamics and MegaBots, Inc. teamed up, received substantial funding and were contracted to develop a giant, walking, fighting robot? We’d end up with something like the METHOD-2, created by Hankook Mirae Technology.
This bipedal robot is expected to assist with construction work in dangerous areas, in cleanup at the Fukushima power plant and in patrol work throughout the Korean Demilitarized Zone. With a $200 million investment and an $8.3 million price tag, we have our first mech suit straight out of a sci-fi movie.
But other than being used as a strength augmenting exoskeleton, what purpose would the military have in utilizing a giant robot? Honestly, not much. Though it’s true that these manned and unmanned robots could be easy to control and may possess a range of human-like abilities, they have very noticeable flaws when it comes to combat:
With the current state of robotics, we most likely won’t see giant robots replacing our traditional ground forces anytime soon. We will see them gradually incorporated into other fields, such as construction, manufacturing and entertainment. But in a few decades, we could be having a different discussion. In an era of constant technological innovation, we’re always reminded that human ingenuity is both amazing and unpredictable. The next generation of engineers will look at events like the Giant Robot Duel and use it to galvanize their ideas into reality. At PRICE Systems, we can’t wait to see what happens next.
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1. After $42 million the LS3 robotic mule program is suspended because it is too loud to fight with marines, Nextbigfuture
2. PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin) Humanoid Military Robot, Army Technology