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Are humans with robots an order of magnitude better than humans without robots? It’s the question the Army’s Maneuver Center for Excellence is hoping to solve through trial and experimentation. The National Advanced Mobility Consortium posted a request for white papers Aug. 5 about technologies that might have a place in a robotic, artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy technology demonstration at Fort Benning in September 2020.

This project is long in the works, with an announcement of intent dating back to March 2019. The premise, as stated in the March announcement, is to “show a path towards an Army capability that will provide a robotically equipped dismounted infantry platoon that is 10 times more effective than the current dismounted infantry platoon.”

In order to do this, the Maneuver Center for Excellence, together with Fort Benning’s Maneuver Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate’s Robotics Requirements Division, is exploring robotic systems for “ground, air, water,” as well as the virtual space — otherwise known as the four platonic elements of terrestrial war. These robots and systems should be able to improve “mobility, protection, situational awareness, endurance, persistence, and depth” as well as, and this is key, lethality.

Taken together, the robots should lend an advantage to the platoon’s OODA loop — its ability to observe, orient, decide and act — with the goal that a robot-enabled platoon completes OODA-loop cycles 10 times faster than it would without robots. That’s a tremendous amount of promise to put in remote systems, especially since the present paradigm of controlled robotic battlefield tools involves a lot of human observers and controllers checking on, managing, and directing the robots. (The process by which humans are actively involved in robot control is “in the loop” or, with more passive robot monitoring termed “on the loop.”)

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