August 08, 2020

Robots in Action: How a Pandemic Affects the Future Face of the Armed Forces

By Samuel Bendett

Over the past decade, the world has seen rapid development and introduction of unmanned military systems into practically all forms of conflict and security/law enforcement.

What began as a near-monopoly on such system by a handful of states has now grown into an evolving matrix of national defense establishments, regular armies, security services, law enforcement agencies, as well as all forms of non-state belligerents using such technology in one way or another. Before the COVID-19 global pandemic hit, many governments and military planning offices, as well as the defense-industrial establishments that support them, were making plans to design, test and field air, land and sea-based unmanned technology for defense, intelligence, surveillance and offensive operations. Of special note is the definition of such technology - at this point in time, “unmanned” refers more to “remote-piloted”, since a human operator is very much in control of such systems. While there are hints and indications of greater autonomy in such unmanned weapons, the human role is not expected to diminish anytime soon when it comes to the maintenance and operation of “military robotics.”

With COVID-19 restrictions in place to safeguard human lives, using “substitute” technologies has never been more important.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affected global population in the most profound ways, especially their relationship to technology. While some technology was no longer viewed as pivotal to daily operation, other types have vaulted to global prominence. Remote teleconferencing became the new norm, affecting practically every society and every kind of job. In a way, a teleconference serves as a way for participants to gather information directly related to their employment, and to coordinate action among different groups and units in an organization. This is precisely one of the main reasons that armed forces today deploy unmanned systems, especially the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Read the full article from the Valdai Discussion Club.

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