Saddle Up for the U.S. Army’s Robotics Rodeo

The Army invites robotic handlers to show off their wares

At the first Robotics Rodeo, hosted this week by the U.S. Army and the Fort Hood III Corps in Texas, war machines replaced bulls and horses. Soldiers and civilian contractors used the opportunity, starting on Wednesday, to inspect a lineup of robots that could potentially find a place on the battlefield.

“If we’re not fielding, we’re failing; it’s all about saving soldiers’ lives,” said Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, Fort Hood commander and co-host of the event. “It’s not about technology demonstrations, not about how much money you can garner from the U.S. government, it’s all about saving soldiers’ lives.”

Robots Carrying Robots

The first-time event emerged as the brainchild of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC). CNET reports that TARDEC invited more than 40 robot handlers to showcase a wide range of autonomous systems.

Several robotic systems at the rodeo displayed the ability to tote their smaller robot brethren. For instance, John Deere brought its autonomous mule known as R-Gator, which can ferry and deploy more specialized robots. Another robot known as the Archer can tote two smaller baby robots while running on a hybrid diesel electric engine.

Such an event comes as little surprise in this day and age. PopSci’s latest issue investigates how the U.S. Air Force has dealt with a rush to convert its pilots into drone jockeys. We also investigated this robotic shift through the prism of the latest Hollywood blockbusters.

The U.S. Navy has also waded into new waters with its own fleet of drones. And PopSci previously showcased the tank-like Ripsaw that may prove the mack daddy of U.S. Army robots.

Perhaps a deal or two may get signed after the rodeo wraps up today, but some vendors complained to CNET that no officer had stepped forward just yet to requisition any particular robots. No word on whether any took out their frustrations by riding the mechanical bull.

[via CNET]