The French army used the four-legged Spot robot from Boston Dynamics in a military exercise. The robot was used for reconnaissance during two days of training.
Photos of the exercise were posted on Twitter by France’s leading military school, Ecole Speciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr. Their goal was called “raising students’ awareness of the challenges of tomorrow, “including” battlefield robotics.”
A report in the French newspaper Ouest-France says that Spot was one of many robots that were tested by students of the French Ecole Militaire Interarmes in order to assess the suitability of robotics in the battles of the future.
Boston Dynamics vice president of business development, Michael Perry, told The Verge that the robot was supplied by the European distributor Shark Robotics, and the manufacturer was not notified in advance of the purpose of its use.
During the exercise, the soldiers performed a number of scenarios, including offensive actions with the capture of the intersection, defensive actions day and night, as well as actions in the city. Each scenario was implemented using only humans at first and then using soldiers and robots together.
Sources cited by the French publication claim that the use of Spot slowed down the speed of operations, but helped to strengthen the security of the troops. “In the city battle stage, when we weren’t using robots, I died. But I did not die when we first asked the robot to conduct reconnaissance, “ said a soldier participating in the exercise.
According to the military, one of the problems was the battery life of the Spot was draining the battery.
In addition to the Spot, the French military also tested other vehicles, including the OPTIO-X20 of Estonian firm Milrem Robotics, a remote-controlled vehicle with tank tracks and an automatic cannon; the ULTRO of the French state military firm Nexter, a wheeled “robot mule” designed to transport equipment; and the Barakuda, a multi-purpose wheeled drone with attached armor plating that can provide mobile cover for soldiers.
Boston Dynamics developed robots for the US Army, but as it moved into the commercial market, the company distanced itself from military contracts. The Spot is currently being tested by a number of US police forces, including the NYPD, where it was recently involved in a special operation with hostages, but Boston Dynamics has always stressed that its machines will never be used for military purposes or to harm people.
So far, Boston Dynamics is “still evaluating” whether to ban military customers from using unarmed robots. “We think that to the extent that the military uses robotics to keep people out of harm’s way, it’s perfectly acceptable,” Perry says.
Meanwhile, in April, the US army will join the ranks of the MUTT wheeled transport robot carriers from General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS). These systems are designed for carrying things, as well as for surveillance, target detection, and reconnaissance.