September 4, 2007 Europe’s answer to America’s DARPA challenge is currently seeking entries for 2008. The Military European Land Robot Trial (M-ELROB) is calling for European civilian entrants keen to test their robot minions against several military scenarios in front of a panel of judges. The aim is to find robotic solutions that can be deployed in the near future to help save soldiers’ lives.

The M-ELROB trials are a showcase for state-of-the-art robotics in military settings. The contest, which started in 2006, has teams put their robot creations through a series of tests designed to emulate real-world military and police scenarios in which robots could make a significant contribution in the near future. Robots can be remote-controlled or autonomous, and there may be several ways in which each mission can be accomplished.

America’s more established DARPA Grand Challenge, is a driverless vehicle race requiring complete autonomy from the competing vehicles. Although still based on a drive towards advances in robotics for military operations, DARPA also places emphasis on more blue-sky technology - though both projects obviously have the potential to deliver technological advances that will reverberate in civilian life.

The 2008 scenarios will include reconnaissance and surveillance, camp security, transport, mule and explosive ordnance disposal missions. Each entrant will be able to participate in the trial missions, as well as stage presentations of their technology for representatives of military, border patrol, special forces, police, fire and civil protection agencies from all over Europe.

While there will be no specific winners published, an internal ranking system will be kept and each robot’s performance metrics on the mission tasks will be made available.

The 2008 M-ELROB trials will be held between the 30th June and 3rd July 2008 in Hammelburg, Germany. Further information and entry criteria are available at the M-ELROB website.