Wired reports the US army has shipped over 2,000 ground robots to aid in the war in Afghanistan. Robots are becoming increasingly numerous on the battlefield, but they're still pretty stupid.
Groundbots first made inroads among bomb-disposal units. The human bomb-techs could take cover and steer in a remote-controlled Talon or PackBot to disable a dangerous explosive device. But a third of the 1,400 fresh ground bots deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010 weren’t for EOD, Thompson pointed out during a presentation at a Washington, D.C. trade show “Robots are not just for explosive ordnance disposal teams anymore … They [ground troops] are using them in ways we never expected.”
For instance, at least one unit sent its four-wheeler-size M-160 — a tracked vehicle fitted with a “flail” for detonating buried mines — to scout ahead of a (manned) Husky bomb-detecting vehicle. Route-clearing for the route-clearer, if you will. Thompson played a video that “showed a powerful roadside bomb destroying the M160,” National Defense reported. “That would have otherwise been the Husky and its occupants,” the magazine helpfully pointed out.
Bots are also being used to inspect vehicles approaching checkpoints, Thompson explained. Many other uses for unmanned ground vehicles are classified, he added.