Unmanned vehicles in ground combat units will likely first serve in resupply, transport and other logistics-based roles, said a lead Army Research Laboratory researcher.

Stuart Young, head of ARL’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance project, told audience members at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting & Exposition that challenges for using and developing automated technology are much more complex in a combat environment.

Robots deployed with troops won’t always easily have access to the information cloud that’s available in civilian settings, and they must move on unknown terrain in areas they can’t always plan for ahead of time.

But the RCTA 10-year project, now in its eighth year, aims to create algorithms to help industry and defense entities such as United States Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center develop those capabilities.

Three “thrusts” are expected as research advances, Young said.

Operations Tempo. Robots must be able to recognize and adapt to fast-moving operations tempo to work alongside human counterparts.

Human-robot execution of complex missions. Roles in combat will vary for man and machine. Young said various tasks, such as controlling checkpoints or searching for explosives, will be performed in different capacities by either humans or robots.

Mobile manipulation. Unmanned systems must be able to be controlled at various levels by soldiers and work in concert with them.

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