Spot, the robot dog, was put to the test on the frontline by French Army trainees in late March. As the trainees completed a series of drills and exercises, the well-known bright yellow four-legged robot scurried along in sync with them.
The military studies were conducted over two days at the military camp of Saint-Cyr Cotquidan by the French military school École Militaire Inter-armes (EMIA), as first stated by the French newspaper Ouest-France (in French).
Spot was joined by two other robots: Barakuda, a multi-purposed mule UGV from Shark Robotics, and ULTRO, a pack robot from Nexter System. Both robotics firms in France are working to improve military forces.
21. Je déploie le robot pour reconnaitre OSCAR3.— Académie militaire de Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan (@SaintCyrCoet) April 6, 2021
Retour en images sur l’exercice de recherche appliquée organisé les 30 et 31 mars par l’EMIA et le centre de recherche. Robotisation du champ de bataille : sensibiliser les élèves aux enjeux de demain. #CapaciTERRE #Robots pic.twitter.com/HiZ2BFOZPY
According to Gérard de Boisboissel, a Cotquidan engineer, the drills were designed to see how well unarmed land robots worked alongside humans, how fast they operated, what their flaws were, and how offensive they were.
The latest exercises, according to De Boisboissel, were led by four academy students and included three scenarios: an offensive operation to take over a crossroads, a defensive action in night and day situations, and urban warfare.
The team ran the scenarios without the robots first and with them to see if they affected the outcome.
And what did the students have to say about it?
Overall, they find their advantages in enclosed spaces. When the robots did the recces, for example, the team felt better. One of the students pointed out that he would have been “shot” if the robots hadn’t gone ahead of him on a reconnaissance mission but that he would have survived if they had gone ahead of him.
The robots slowed them down, they said. In a very inconvenient turn of events, Spot the robot dog’s batteries died in the middle of battle, requiring the team of four humans to move it off the ground. Not perfect, but humans support each other off battlefields, so why shouldn’t robots?
Overall, it seems that incorporating robotics into the battlefield has yielded a mixed bag of outcomes. Nonetheless, there is still space for progress, which is why these pieces of training are held.
Spot’s journey is far from over, as it’s still being used by the NYPD for its extendable limb, and NASA is testing it for use on Mars.