THE US military is asking inventors to come up with designs for a robot that can trundle onto a battlefield and rescue injured troops, with little or no help from outside.
Retrieving casualties while under fire is a major cause of combat losses, says a posting on the Pentagon's small business technology transfer website (bit.ly/aRXXQU). So the army wants a robot with strong, dexterous arms and grippers that can cope with "the large number of body positions and types of locations in which casualties can be found".
It should be capable of planning an approach and escape route without prior knowledge of the local terrain and geography. The army also wants the robot to be able to cooperate with swarms of similar machines for mass rescues.
Inventors have until 24 March to file their ideas
The full proposal on Robotic Combat Casualty Extraction makes it clear just how much autonomy the military hopes the robot will have.
For several years the Army has conducted or sponsored research in robotic casualty extraction and evacuation (CASEVAC), but has yet to solve the challenges posed by autonomously and safely picking up combat casualties for the large number of body positions and locations at which casualties can be found. Autonomy or near-autonomy is needed in order to reduce or eliminate operator intervention and avoid distraction of soldier first responders from their primary duties.