For many decades, autonomous and semi-autonomous technologies have been deployed in the U.S. military and other armed forces around the world. These robotic technologies used for battle can be traced back to World War I, and their importance/use for battle in the future is set to explode as engineers explore newer and greater autonomous technologies.

Today, the autonomous systems and their semi- counterparts perform more combat roles than they did back in the days. Examples of such combat roles include the following;

  • Explosive disarmament
  • Logistics support
  • Reconnaissance
  • Search and rescue
  • Fire support
  • Lethal combat roles
  • …and much more

A lot of people believe that the future of autonomous and semi-autonomous technologies would be geared towards fewer efforts in battles on the part of American soldiers, and also for soldiers in other countries where these technologies are deployed for war. In essence, soldiers would have fewer roles to play on the battlefield while these robotic technologies would do most of the tasks.

A Brief Delve into The History of Autonomous Military Systems

Also known as autonomous robots, autonomous systems targeted at the military have an interesting and long history. In recent times, they have become prominent and are deployed for large-scale use. The early years’ designs were first deployed for military purpose during both World War I and World War II.

For the rest of the First World War, different inventors fashioned petite, remote-controlled as well as tracked explosive devices that are disposable. A typical example was the Crocodile Schneider Torpille Terrestre — sporting an explosive charge of 40kg. Elmer Wickershaw, an American inventor, patented a similar device which was named Wickersham Land Torpedo. The United States Army also fashioned a number of aerial torpedoes known as Kettering Bug — but they were never deployed into active service.

Current Use of Autonomous and Semi-Autonomous for Military Purpose in the U.S.:

  • Light Tank

A typical example is the Ripsaw MS1. This autonomous tank system is currently undergoing development with Howe and Howe Technologies. This unmanned light tank was developed first in the year 2000 and the United States Army is reviewing it currently.

  • Centry UGV

An example is the Guardium. This Israeli unmanned UGV can be used in an autonomous mode or teleoperated mode for military purposes. The vehicle would work in these two modes without any form of human interaction.

  • Remotely Controlled All-Electric Military Robot

This device is designed especially for locating, handling and destroying hazardous objects — example is the DRDO Daksh which is fully operational right now. The United States military can take advantage of this semi-autonomous device for military purposes.

  • Autonomous Ship Defense System

This system is currently operational, and a typical device is the Goalkeeper (Phalanx), built by the German and structured as a close-in weapon system. It was introduced first in 1979. The system is fully autonomous and features short-range defense mechanism against aircraft, missiles, as well as smaller vessels.

  • Semi-autonomous Firearm Platform

This comes in form of series of remotely operated, tracked combat robots — it is semi-autonomous. An example is the TALON, built by Foster-Miller. This device is fully operational currently. They are built to perform a wide range of combat/military roles such as engagement with the foe, and reconnaissance.

  • Search and Rescue UGV

The PackBot is a typical device in this class, and currently operational. This range of military robots is built by an international robotics company (iRobot) that targets search as well as rescue activities. In 2001, these robots were deployed in search of the World Trade Center debris. And, in Afghanistan and Iraq, thousands of them were also used.

  • Unmanned Patrol Boat

The Protector falls in this category — length is 9-meter and it is armed with 7.62 machine gun, 40 millimeter grenade launchers, and .50 caliber machine gun. When it was developed, it was targeted at terrorists’ threat following the USS Cole attack in the year 2000.

These and many other autonomous and semi-autonomous systems and technologies are powerful tools that can further aid the U.S. military activities, including several others that are currently undergoing development.


This article was written by Annabelle Short, a writer with experience in identity protection and online fraud prevention. She’s a contributor for Minute Man Review