Robots, we want you to join the U.S. Army. The government is testing out yet another ammunition-ready automaton, this time by HDT Global, as a new recruit for the battlefield. At a four-day robotics testing event in the U.S. Army's Fort Benning post in Georgia, select commercial companies showed off just how powerful robot soldiers can be.
The robots were made to fire machine guns with live ammunition, all monitored by a group of senior military officers for judgement. Companies like Lockheed Martin, iRobot, 5D Robotics and HDT demonstrated robots that had autonomous ability, could carry heavy loads, and shoot a machine gun.
Ready for battle
HDT's robot has the ability to fire an M240 machine gun at a target approximately 492 feet away and seems to be a specially modified form of the companies' Protector robot. The HDT Protector robot can carry 1,250 massive pounds of gear, can climb 45 degree steep slopes and clocks in at less than three feet wide, making it a useful tool for Army missions that require heavy foot traffic.
The Protector has a 32 horsepower turbo diesel/JP8 engine that is the "robotic equivalent of a jeep or HMMWV" that runs on 15 gallons of diesel or JP8 fuel. Its turbocharger allows it to power up an attachment like a mini-flail, mine roller, manipulator arms, satellite communications panels and, of course, a machine gun, giving the robot a useful customizable interface suited to many different purposes.
It can be controlled via a wireless remote that resembles a lightweight video game controller with two buttons and a thumbstick. It operates with an included four-pound radio repeater that has a 3,280 feet range to the robot. Via a "cruise control" button on the remote, the operator has the option to let the robot maintain its own speed and direction, which can be switched back to manual mode at any time.
Like a Lego project, the Protector can also be fully disassembled into four pieces for convenience, with each piece requiring about four men's strength to be lifted. This isn't the first foray into robots for the Army, as DARPA recently invested $10 million in Boston Dynamic's LS3 model in September in addition to testing out robotic suits for soldiers. The next generation of robot-powered battle is upon us!