French army spotted using robot dog during a military exercise

During military exercises carried out by the French Army, an unusual partner was seen on the ground with the army. Spot, the quadruped robot looks similar to a dog that was used for reconnaissance during the two-day training exercise. Built by a US firm Boston Dynamics, the deployment of Spot raise questions on the future of machines.

The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, a popular french military school posted pictures of the exercise on Twitter quoting, “Robotization of the battlefield: raising students’ awareness of the challenges of tomorrow.”

Boston Dynamics’ VP of business development Micheal Perry said to The Verge that a European distributor, Shark Robotics had supplied the robot while the US Firm had no knowledge about the deal.

According to a French newspaper Ouest -France, the idea behind the use of the robotic dog in the military exercise by the school is to study the usefulness of robots in future battlefields. More such robots will be tested by students from France’s École Militaire Interarmes in their exercises.

Ouest-France added during the two-day exercise, soldiers ran different war scenarios such as capturing crossroads, defensive operations during the night and day, and urban combat. Each scenario was conducted by humans alone again with humans and the robotic dog to understand the difference made by the addition of machines.

According to the sources quoted in the newspaper, robots slowed down operations but helped in keeping troops alive. Robots saved many soldiers who lost during the same operation conducted earlier. One issue was Spot’s battery life ran out of an exercise which had to be conducted again.

Robots in warfare

Spot weighs around 31kg and is equipped with cameras and provides a remote control option. Four legs on the robot are used for navigating on normal, terrain and all kinds of surfaces. Many robots often use wheels or treaded leg robots. The spot was mostly used for surveys, on construction sites of factories and underground mines. 

Other machines tested by the French military are OPTIO-X20, a fully remote-controlled vehicles build by Estonian firm Milrem Robotics and comes with tank treads and autocannon. ULTRO, an equipment carrier made by Nexter, a French military firm.

Boston Dynamics mentioned that the company had a clear policy for both the supplier and customer are prohibited from weaponising the robot. The terms and conditions page of the company mentions, “ to harm or intimidate any person or animal, as a weapon, or to enable any weapon.” Though the robot may not be used for harming anyone in the military, the increase in the use of such robots pose threat to the fear of researchers who believe warfare with robots is near.

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