Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The French army tests Boston Dynamics’ Spot robots in combat scenarios

The Boston Dynamics spot is gradually seeing its debut in different field activities as it reached more companies since it was put on sale. Although it is intended to be used in civilian environments, it has also been used by law enforcement agencies in various parts of the world.

Now, French Army trainees tested out the well-known bright yellow four-legged robot’s abilities on the battlefield. Spot, the robot dog, was one of several robots tested by the French army students during a two-day training session at a military school in the northwest of France.

Pictures of the exercises were shared on Twitter by France’s foremost military school, the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr. The objective of these exercises is, above all, to raise students’ awareness of the challenges of tomorrow, which include the robotization of the battlefield.

During the two-day deployment, the students ran a number of scenarios, including an offensive action to take over a crossroads, a defensive action in night and day conditions, and an urban combat test. The Spot was used primarily for reconnaissance, thanks to its ability to move through difficult terrain.

The soldiers first carried out the scenarios without, and then with the aid of the robots, to see what impact they made. Other bots deployed were OPTIO-X20, a remote-controlled vehicle with tank treads and auto-cannon, ULTRO, a wheeled robot mule made for carrying equipment, and Barakuda, an armor-plated wheeled drone designed to provide cover to advancing soldiers.

The use of the robots made the tests slower, but at the same time, safer, reports French newspaper Ouest-France. One soldier said he died in the first exercise without Spot but survived the second time thanks to the robot’s reconnaissance. However, Spot’s battery life was supposedly an issue; the robot apparently ran out of juice during an exercise and had to be carried out.

Spot’s appearance on the battlefield raises many questions. Boston Dynamics robots were first intended to be used by the US military, but since they moved into the commercial market, the company is no longer affiliated with the military. Spot is still being used by some US police forces, though the company’s current terms and conditions bar them from being used “to harm or intimidate any person or animal, as a weapon, or to enable any weapon.”

The company said it isn’t necessarily against using robots to take soldiers out of harm’s way and is still evaluating the idea of using robots for reconnaissance and other more passive duties.