Rise of the Robots: NATO ‘bots Talking to One Another

While it might not be as epic as a UAV taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier, next week at Ft. Benning Ga., teams of American, German, and Turkish developers will take turns using their own controllers to drive each other’s ground robots around the Maneuver Battle Lab.

The event is part of a larger NATO program to design interoperable unmanned ground vehicle systems and controllers, which will include developing a NATO set of standards for all members.

According to a release put out by the Maneuver Center of Excellence, a Talon UGV equipped with sensors and articulating tools will be operated using the US, German, and Turkish operator control units in a variety of exercises looking for potential improvised explosive devices, among other scenarios.

The event comes just days after throwable robot maker ReconRobotics announced that it has sold over 4,000 robots, making it the second largest producer of military and police robots in the world. The company’s Throwbot XT and Recon Scout XL micro-robots have been sold to police agencies in Michigan, Texas, Illinois, Georgia, New York, California, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

In a release marking the milestone, the company boasted that its sales have been bested only iRobot, “which reports 5,000 robots sold and began selling its Packbot in 2001, six years before ReconRobotics entered the market.”

Alan Bignall, President and CEO of ReconRobotics said in a statement that “when we came on the scene in 2007, all military and police robots were large and complex and were operated only by trained experts,” but that his company’s one pound throwable ‘bot “enabled them to remotely deploy video, infrared and audio sensors to reveal hidden threats.”

Not about to be outdone, in June iRobot and the Army also announced a four-year, $30 million deal for iRobot’s PackBot FasTac robotic systems and associated spares, still making it the big dog in the world of unmanned ground vehicles.

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Paul McLeary

McLeary covers national security policies at the White House, Pentagon, the Hill, and State Department.
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