French army tests robot dog Spot for battlefield, tries to see if it will work with humans

The trainee soldiers from a French military academy ran various tests like offensive action capturing a crossroads, defensive actions during night and day, and an urban combat test.

UPDATED: April 8, 2021 13:52 IST

The French army is testing quadruped robot dog Spot on the battlefield. Trainee soldiers tested Spot, along with other robots in late March in a 2-day trial. The robots were tested for various reconnaissance tasks and urban combat tests. The tests were part of a project by the École Militaire Interarmes school at a French army camp Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan. As reported by French publication, Ouest-France, the trainee soldiers ran various tests like offensive action capturing a crossroads, defensive actions during night and day, and an urban combat test. Every scenario was first performed using just humans and then using humans and robots together to see what difference the machines made.

(Picture: Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan)
(Picture: Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan)

According to the reports, the robots slowed the troops down but helped them be safe. The spot was also reported running out of battery during the test. The publication has quoted one of the soldiers saying, “During the urban combat phase where we weren’t using robots, I died. But I didn’t die when we had the robot do a recce first.”

(Picture: Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan)
(Picture: Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan)

“The man remains at the heart of the tactical decision. The EOs had the opportunity to pilot these robots and to measure, on the basis of indicators devised by the CREC, the gains and constraints in the conduct of the maneuver,” Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan’s noted on its Twitter handle.

Spot, built by Google-owned US firm Boston Dynamics is housed with cameras and can be remote controlled. As the name suggests, the quadruped robot dog has four legs that navigate terrain that challenge wheeled or threaded robots. Until now, Spot has been used to navigate terrain that would challenge wheeled or treaded robots. It has also been used to survey several environments, from construction sites to factories and underground mines, the Verge reported.

(Picture: Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan)
(Picture: Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan)

Along with Spot, the French military is testing other robots, like French-made pack robot Nexter ULTRO and Shark Robotics Barakuda, a wheeled drone that carries a heavy blast shield to protect the soldiers with attached armoured plating, and OPTIO-X20, a remote-controlled vehicle with tank treads and autocannon built by Estonian firm Milrem Robotics. Boston Dynamics’ vice president of business development Michael Perry told The Verge that the company had policies forbidding suppliers or customers from weaponising the robot and that the firm is still evaluating if it should ban non-weaponised deployments by military customers.


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