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Serving Alongside Robots? Not That Far Fetched!

In the last few years there’s been a project in motion to incorporate robots into the Armed Forces. With technology advancing faster and faster every day, it’s not unthinkable to imagine Artificial Intelligence enabling service members to safely complete their tasks. The project is part of DARPA Squad X Experimentation Program. Test runs began in 2018 with a system that offered capabilities from all sorts of robots and drones already on the market. Marines that were part of this initial run were able to detect enemies and plan their assaults without the simulated opposing forces knowing, thanks to the robots.

Squad X provided Army and Marine units with “autonomous systems equipped with off-the-shelf technologies and novel sensing tools developed via DARPA’s Squad X Core Technologies program”. The technology's goal was to increase the service members’ situational awareness and enemy engagement with greater speed and from longer distances.

Nowadays, military engagements happen in complex and uncertain battlefield conditions. Attacks can come from multiple directions at once. In real life, and in the middle of the battlefield, active members may have difficulty utilizing the new technologies at its fullest, because they may be too heavy or complex to use in a demanding, time-sensitive, environment.

DARPA's Squad X wants to help overcome these challenges. The goal of the Squad X Experimentation program is to “design, develop, and validate autonomous system prototypes, equipped with novel sensing tools and off-the-shelf technologies”.

Squad X four key areas of development:

Precision Engagement: Precisely engage threats while maintaining compatibility with infantry weapon systems and without extra heavy weight or operational burdens.

Non-Kinetic Engagement: Disrupt enemy command and control, communications and use of unmanned assets at a squad-relevant operational pace.

Squad Sensing: Detect potential threats at a squad-relevant operational pace.

Squad Autonomy: Increase squad members’ real-time knowledge of their own and teammates’ locations in GPS-denied environments through collaboration with embedded unmanned air and ground systems.

These improvements will potentially improve situational awareness and understanding of a multi-domain environment for the active members.

“BAE Systems’ FAST Labs™ research and development organization will provide Mission Intelligence for Tactical Systems (MITS) advanced sensor fusion, artificial intelligence, and autonomy. MITS directs mobile robots and their sensor payloads while reducing the cognitive load on its partner warfighters. MITS fuses sensor data, constructs and shares battlefield awareness with its human squadmates, and provides tactical electronic and kinetic support to the squad as it maneuvers and engages enemy positions. MITS-synthesized awareness informs human decision making in complex, time-critical combat situations, and directs continuous autonomous robotic tasking.”

“Autonomy technology – be it in the air, space, sea, or ground domain – is all about making better decisions faster to allow our warfighters to more effectively execute their missions as safely as possible,” said Chris Eisenbies, product line director of the Autonomy, Controls, and Estimation group at BAE Systems. “We look forward to the prospects of providing this advantage to those in the field.”


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