We’ve all seen those futuristic Sci-Fi movies where man and machine fight alongside each other in the throes of battle. While that might have seemed far fetched years ago, the reality is that robotics are increasingly becoming a part of our military today. In fact, the Pentagon recently requested prototypes of combined human-robot squads. As the robotics industry becomes increasingly important to military officials, technology providers are working hard to develop solutions that will support increasingly automated military efforts. A recent report estimates that robotics in the military will grow at a CAGR of 9.5 percent between now and 2023. According to the same report, robotics will be most used by the military in Europe during this time frame, followed by North America.
The U.S. military continues to test out the possibilities for leveraging robots to protect soldiers, increase visibility in combat situations and generally streamline operations. Not only are these robotic applications groundbreaking — but they’re also really cool. News stories on new robotic technology boast of robotic ships, heavily armed unmanned ground vehicles, and robotic tanks – with more innovative technology coming out all the time. For example, there is a robotic insect called the “RoboBee” which was created for crop pollination and disaster relief efforts, but could also potentially lead to robotic insects used for military purposes as the true “fly on the wall” concept — equipped with audio and visual capabilities.
There are also recent reports around the push for robots designed to carry wounded soldiers out of battle instead of forcing medics to enter live combat zones. These robotics may also support troops behind enemy lines in a variety of other ways to prevent risking more lives, such as dropping medical supplies to soldiers in dangerous areas. Future technologies may have the power to deliver specific medicine and even blood to wounded soldiers. While there are robotic models being tested and deployed around the world, perhaps the most uncertainty lies in the data.
A Data Disaster?
As recently reported in Popular Mechanics, the robotics of tomorrow may be facing a serious data problem. The article notes that for one, robots are both consumers and creators of data. Technology needs to be able to sustain the sheer amount of data required for robotic operations. The article also highlights the importance of collecting and using the right data instead of ALL the data. The good news — thanks to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) — is that modern technology is becoming more favorable for managing data and it will further be supported by secure command and control (C2) links.
Wireless data communications solutions are available that enable reliable C2 links have been trusted by the government and defense industry for decades. Not only are they proven in combat, but they are applicable for today’s complex data-centric systems, including robotics. With appropriate security measures and encryption capabilities in place, C2 links can be better protected to thwart malicious attacks on these automated systems – a critical function when the C2 links enable operations of the device.
Further, when frequency-hopping techniques are used there is an additional layer of security, as these types of devices leverage coordinated, rapid changes in radio frequencies that naturally avoid interference. When FHSS technologies are combined with FIPS and AES security standards, as well as multiple user-defined cryptography keys (up to 32), they are equipped with a highly robust link that is well suited for military and combat operations.
While robotics brings concerns to the data conversation, technology providers are working to keep up with modern data needs. With a secure C2 link, technology is further hardened for combat applications. It will be interesting to see the developments in robotics for the military in the next couple of years. What are some of the most interesting robotics applications you’ve seen?