Army may soon get robot option for recce ops

Army may soon get robot option for recce ops

The ‘Sentry’ robot built by DRDO’s CAIR lab.

Robots on wheels, robots on tracks and robots resembling a ball, not unlike a robotic character seen in the new Star Wars films may soon be rolling out to join Indian Army troops.

For the last three years, Bengaluru-based DRDO lab, the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robots (CAIR), has been perfecting four different models of mobile robots designed to infiltrate military and combat zones, map the area and help friendly troops punch their way in.

Two of these models, which were on display at the 107th Indian Science Congress, showed the maturity of the technology. The ‘Sentry’ is a four-wheeled robot which looks almost spider-like with a large central eye and a battery of sensors in front. The unit is designed to probe flat or semi-flat landscapes for the military.

The second machine, called ‘Mini-UGV’ is a squat, tracked robot resembling a large, toy tank designed to infiltrate buildings occupied by terrorists and survey the various floors.

“Both of these models are completely autonomous, which means that if you give them a destination, they will create their own waypoints and chart a course to the destination using their inbuilt Artificial Intelligence module,” explained the project director.

He clarified that the ‘Sentry’ is also capable of patrolling a medium-sized perimeter constantly for as long as the battery held a charge. The maximum battery endurance of both machines is about four hours, scientists clarified.

Both systems use a battery of sensors, including GPS, 360-degree cameras and an infrared sensor.

The other model of robot, which was not displayed, is said to be a robot ball (called “ballbot”) which could be dropped by the mini-UGV across the various floors of a terrorist-held building, which would then be controlled by an operator from a remote location.

The operational doctrine has already been formulated for all the robots. “Eight of these various robots are designed to operate as a team. Each robot has something that we call “multi-agent collaboration.’ This means they can talk to each other,” explained another scientist involved in the project.

“The last class of machine is a larger reconnaissance ground vehicle which again has autonomous capabilities,” the senior scientist said.

The DRDO said both machines have completed testing and are ready to be deployed. DRDO officials, however, would not comment about whether the Indian military had expressed interest in the inventions.

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