Boston Dynamics’ robot-dog Spot is constantly attracting new followers, including recently the French army. At the Saint-Cyr Special Military School, dozens of students tested it, like other rather astonishing robots.
The Spot robot in a militarized version
On Twitter on April 6, 2021, the Saint-Cyr Special Military School published the images of an applied research exercise taking place on March 30 and 31. No less than 80 students from the Inter-Armed Military School (EMIA) participated in these two days of tests organized by the Coëtquidan Schools Research Center. The aim was to assess the advantages that these robots can bring, as well as their downsides.
Among the machines present, a celebrity who is talked about quite often in the media: the Spot robot dog. This Boston Dynamics machine has not yet integrated any army, but has already been adopted by other services, including the New York Police Force (NYPD) in February 2021. Renamed Digidog, the robot’s mission was to transmit a live video of the apartment where a hostage-taking took place.
The version of Spot that French students rated was militarized and distributed by Shark Robotics. This French start-up had already collaborated with Boston Dynamics in October 2020 to make the Spot robot a decontamination robot as part of the fight against Covid-19.
21. I deploy the robot to recognize OSCAR3.
Back in pictures on the applied research exercise organized on March 30 and 31 by the EMIA and the research center. Robotization of the battlefield: raising students’ awareness of the challenges of tomorrow. #CapaciTERRE #Robots pic.twitter.com/HiZ2BFOZPY
– Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan (@SaintCyrCoet) April 6, 2021
Slowness and lack of autonomy
In addition to the Spot robot, the EMIA students used the Ultro, capable of transporting up to 600 kg of heavy weaponry and ammunition. This machine can also be used for casualty evacuation. Another example is the Barracuda, which is also a kind of mule that can also act as a bulletproof shield. Other machines were present such as the THeMIS, a terrestrial drone armed with a 20 mm cannon. The tests made it possible to compare three action scenarios, with and without robots.
It was a question of an attack with the capture of a crossroads, a defensive action by day then by night and finally, an urban combat phase. The robots used were used either to protect soldiers from assaults, or to do an inspection. These evaluations bear witness to the still long road remaining for robots to accompany soldiers during real missions. It must be said that most of these machines are mostly still way too slow and have an autonomy that is still too poor to constitute a real advantage.