Key Emerging Trends in Military Robots

Key Opportunities and Challenges in the Military Robots Market

The military robots market is projected to grow from USD 16.79 billion in 2017 to USD 30.83 billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 12.92% during the forecast period.

Improvement in intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition through utilization of robots

The need for better monitoring is of utmost importance, especially with the rising number of threats globally. Every day, a large number of unlawful activities take place via sea and land. In particular cases, soldiers find it difficult to effectively tackle a situation, as the reaction time from detection to interception is high. In these cases, military robots can act as an alternative to humans, provide better cross-border surveillance, and gather intelligence data with faster reaction time from detection to interception. Military robots can effectively and efficiently monitor activities and continuously relay real-time data to the ground station.

The demand for military robots is increasing for carrying out target acquisition and surveillance. For example, in 2014, Lockheed Martin Corporation (US) received a contract from the US Army Robotics Technology Consortium to conduct a fully autonomous reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition experiment using both, K-MAX unmanned air vehicle and Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) unmanned ground vehicle. Various other companies, including Northrup Grumman Corporation (US), The Boeing Company (US), IAI (Israel), Textron Inc. (US), and iRobot Corporation (US) are also developing military robots with intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition capabilities.

Market concentration in Europe and North America

The demand for military robots from North American and European countries is high due to the engagement of these countries in various conflicts, such as the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, the Syrian conflict, and others. Countries such as the US, the UK, France, and others have access to advanced military robots and technologies. This can be attributed to the presence of major companies, such as Northrup Grumman Corporation (US), Lockheed Martin Corporation (US), BAE Systems PLC (UK), General Dynamics Corporation (US), The Boeing Company (US), etc., in these regions. This has kept the military robots market largely concentrated in these countries.

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What advancements in robotic technology are posing opportunities for the military robots market?

Over a period of time, there have been several significant strides in the development of military robots due to technological advancements of automation and sensors systems. Nowadays, robots are equipped with advanced technologies of automated weapon systems having the capability to counter any attack. Such military robots are assembled with several codes and algorithms. Companies are configuring and testing advanced military robots that have the ability to navigate a vehicle around a series of pylons, traverse different terrains, climb the ladder, remove debris, operate in a disaster situation, and close a series of valves. The robots can perform these and several other activities while in movement or otherwise.

Robotic engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) were funded by DARPA to develop a four-legged Harbinger. These engineers took five years to develop such a harbinger and demonstrated a four-legged harbinger that was able to avoid obstacles as tall as 18 inches and run at an average speed of 5mph. This was the first legged robot that could leap hurdles. Different technologies, such as LiDAR sensor systems and Internal Measurement Unit (IMU) with unique algorithms, were used to sense and make robots act accordingly. Gradually, several startups, such as Redwood Robotics (US), Meka Robotics (US), Schaft (Japan), Boston Dynamics (US), and others entered into the robotics market and developed robots that were able to perform tasks with precise mobility. Boston Dynamics was also funded by DARPA and successfully worked on high profile projects of robots, such as Cheetah, Big Dog, and PETman. Schaft (Japan), in 2013, developed a robot, which was able to complete all the challenges given to it, including climbing ladders, walking on uneven surfaces, and removing debris; this robot also won the DARPA robotics challenges.

How will the challenges associated with the malfunctioning of hardware and software be tackled in the military robots market?

Military robots suffer from hardware and software malfunctions. Even though they are designed and built for tough situations, they continue to face unknown challenges. The challenges can be of different types, such as extreme temperatures, components breakdown, software jam, etc.

Robots are controlled by human operators either via the tethered mode or the remote mode. In certain cases, a human operator loses control of the robot, or the robot sometimes miscalculates the command. These scenarios may lead to unsuccessful operation. Engineers are facing challenges in creating fully autonomous robots. The technology is still in the developmental phase.

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