Indian scientists are in the process of developing robots to replace human soldiers in the near future as part of the country’s unmanned warfare system.
A new research facility has been set up by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and BEML Ltd., the state-run heavy engineering and defense equipment major, in Avadi, a suburb of Chennai in south India, to make robot soldiers and cargo-transporting robots for the country’s army.
“Whatever a soldier will do in warfare, a robot soldier should be able to do. If the human is doing a search in warfare, the robot soldier will also do that. If a human is doing firefighting, the robot soldier will do that,” says V.K. Saraswat, DRDO’s director general and scientific adviser to India’s defense minister. “The DRDO is working on the project to have robot soldiers by 2020 or 2030,” he says.
The robot soldiers will be able to perform duties including carrying loads of ammunition and payloads for mine detection and surveillance. Saraswat says they can be controlled from remote locations, which would help the country’s armed forces by not having to deploy people in areas which are difficult to access.
“Such a robot needs a database and artificial intelligence to carry out its activities,” Saraswat says. “A lot of effort and coordination among various agencies in the defense sector [will be] needed to develop these robots.”
The new robot soldiers are likely to replace at least some of India’s 100,000 soldiers.
In a separate project, DRDO is planning to design robotic mules that can replace the animals used by Indian soldiers to carry heavy loads in mountainous terrain.
DRDO already has developed a remote-controlled robotic vehicle called Daksh that can identify and destroy dangerous objects such as bombs. It was approved by the Indian armed forces for induction, and the country’s military forces ordered 20 of the vehicles in 2010.