Global Defence Technology special issue: Unmanned military systems

While defence departments have been leading the field of robotics research, the often secretive and clandestine nature of such research can result in a closed doors approach to innovation from elsewhere. But in the light of budget cuts, is the commercial sector catching up? We investigate how cash-strapped militaries could benefit from outstanding advances in robotics from other industries and take a look at successful military-commercial collaborations that have produced breakthrough systems such as iRobot’s PackBot.

We also look beyond the Terminator myth to find out why humanoid military robots aren’t necessarily the best shape for all jobs in the battlefield, review the evolution of today’s advanced EOD disposal robots and take an interactive look at the components that make unmanned or autonomous convoys run smoothly.

Moreover, we ask whether a growing aversion to the idea of aerial drones is slowing down innovation in unmanned and autonomous technology, profile the world’s most advanced long-endurance UAVs and take a look at the next generation of unmanned naval systems.

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In this issue

Road to Nowhere?
The US Department of Defense’s unmanned systems roadmap describes a futuristic vision for the next 25 years of research. Grant Turnbull asks how feasible it is given the current budget cuts and a growing aversion to drones.
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Re-Thinking Military Innovation
The military used to be the leading innovator in unmanned systems, but the commercial sector has long caught up. Grant Turnbull asks if cash-strapped defence departments can use commercial innovation for their own ends.
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Don’t Be Evil
In December 2013, the world discovered that Google had bought military robot specialist Boston Dynamics, specialists in military robots. Grant Turnbull investigates the motives behind the acquisition in the light of current trends in robotics.
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The Terminator Myth
Researchers have made great strides in developing humanoid robots that stand and run on two legs but, as Berenice Baker finds out, for most army tasks wheeled, tracked and flying models continue to prevail.
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Bomb Disposal Robots: an Evolution
Remotely operated bomb disposal robots have saved innumerable lives since their introduction in the 1970s. Berenice Baker explores how they have evolved from their civil defence origins to support the military in asymmetric warfare.
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How it Works: Unmanned Convoys
Unmanned logistics convoys offer the opportunity to deliver arms and supplies to even the remotest outposts with minimal risk to human life. We take an interactive look at the components that keep such a fleet running.
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Embracing Autonomy
Despite having made significant leaps in recent years, autonomous technology is still in its early days. Grant Turnbull asks why we may need to step out of our comfort zone to push autonomy to the next level.
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Maximum Endurance
Endurance is a primary challenge for manufacturers of unmanned aerial vehicles, which play an increasingly important role in military operations. We take a look at the world’s best UAVs by endurance.
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Drones of the Seas
Unmanned ships can significantly reduce costs and the operational hazards sailors face in conflict zones. Grant Turnbull looks into the future of unmanned surface vessels.
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In our next special issue: Soldier systems

Wearable sensors are becoming smaller and more affordable, enabling condition monitoring of soldiers in real time. We find out how the data is used to plan manoeuvres that make the most of every individual’s skills.

We also look at the latest battle management systems that help commanders in charge plan and execute operations and ask how modern technology ensures that information collected by a soldier’s various sensors and communication devices is presented in helpful ways without causing data overload.

Moreover, we explore the latest in soldier power systems and advanced assault weapons and take a look at the challenges of designing camouflage patterns for the varied requirements of today’s conflict zones.

The next special issue will be out on 26 June.

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