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US military branches are undergoing a shift in the structure and missions that's designed to help them become lighter and more agile, able to move easily and quickly to hot spots. Long-range planning to prepare for modern warfare includes developing robotics for military use. For instance, the Army's Future Combat Systems program plans to make a third of its ground forces robotic within about 15 years. The army's 20-year plan envisions 10 steps of robotic development, starting with completely human-controlled systems and ending with autonomous, armed, cooperative robots. The Robotics Institute has developed a small, unmanned ground vehicle called a "throwbot" that can be tossed into buildings to gather and relay information back to soldiers before they enter the building. The institute is also developing larger robotic vehicles that can do reconnaissance and breaching missions, including a robotic helicopter that can generate 3D models from the air.
Date of Publication: Jul-Aug 2004