June 16, 2005 The mundane duties of routine patrolling and perimeter control take on new and dangerous meaning in a war zone, as has been found in Iraq, so it’s not entirely unexpected to see the US Air Force Research Laboratory experimenting with how unmanned detection, challenge and response systems might integrate robotics into the day-to-day security forces mission. “These systems are not intended to replace human interaction,” said Kevin Hodges, AFRL robotics program manager. “They remain under human control at all times and are designed to help our Airmen by keeping them out of harm’s way. Our focus is saving lives.”
Laboratory officials said they envision these types of robots providing perimeter defence for Air Force bases and forward-deployed units. Data gathered from the experiments may be used to make that vision a reality, officials said.
Mr. Hodges said the robots provide an advantage for security forces by providing safe surveillance and forward presence without risking injury or loss of life.
Two unmanned vehicles were shown to the media recently. One appeared to be a turbo-charged all-terrain vehicle; the other resembled a miniature tank. They were loaded with cameras and sensors, as well as robotic equipment needed to make them function without a human nearby. Both vehicles are designed to save lives by confronting adversaries and conducting surveillance, laboratory officials said.
In the demonstration, an intruder walked toward one of the security forces vehicles. A loudspeaker on the vehicle, broadcast a warning to the man to “halt and be identified.” The man continued to advance, and the remote controller of the vehicle backs it away from the man, giving him every chance to comply by flashing the red and blue lights to ensure he knows he is dealing with security forces.
The advantages of a remotely controlled vehicle are that an error in judgement by the security forces will not necessarily cost a life, so the window for error can be extended past normal tolerances. In this instance, the intruder’s aggressive movement toward the patrol vehicle is instantaneously halted by a blast of pepper spray.
The vehicle then moves into an observation role until human security forces arrive to take the intruder into custody.