In­dian per­spec­tive

Electronics For You - - Technology -

The De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s (DRDO) Daksh is a real proof of In­dia’s tech­no­log­i­cal prow­ess. Daksh ro­bot is In­dia’s first in­dige­nously man­u­fac­tured re­motely-op­er­ated ve­hi­cle, which is ca­pa­ble of han­dling and dis­pos­ing im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices. Af­ter ex­per­i­ment­ing with around 20 units, the In­dian army an­nounced that it is procur­ing a hun­dred more units of Daksh for de­ploy­ing in the army.

DRDO has also an­nounced its plans to de­velop a ro­bot sol­dier by 2020-30. “What­ever a sol­dier will do in war­fare, a ro­bot sol­dier should be able to do. That’s the plan,” said Dr V.K. Saraswat, sci­en­tific ad­vi­sor to the de­fence min­is­ter and sec­re­tary of De­fence R&D. The ro­bot sol­diers, con­trolled from re­mote lo­ca­tions, can do mul­ti­ple tasks in­clud­ing fight­ing hu­mans and car­ry­ing loads of am­mu­ni­tions.

“We need to in­clude a lot of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to avoid col­li­sion. Also, a lot of ro­bot sol­diers need to com­mu­ni­cate with each other in the bat­tle­field. Enor­mous amount of data­base and an­a­lytic in­tel­li­gence is re­quired for this,” Dr Saraswat said. DRDO, ap­par­ently, also has plans to re­place mules with ro­bots to carry heavy loads to places like Si­achen.

That said, there ap­pears to be a bit of a dis­ap­point­ment in the lo­cal robotics ecosys­tem as most of the de­fence bud­get apart from the DRDO projects is go­ing abroad. “There is huge po­ten­tial growth in this space but the gov­ern­ment needs to start in­vest­ing in lo­cal com­pa­nies like Is­rael, the US, Rus­sia or China do, rather than de­pend­ing on other coun­tries for tech­nol­ogy sup­port, as it has tra­di­tion­ally been. As of now, it ap­pears that 70 per cent of the de­fence bud­get of In­dia is out­sourced to other coun­tries. There needs to be a change in the gov­ern­ment’s procur­ing process,” com­ments Azad. ics, es­pe­cially their Big­dog prod­uct. Imag­ine a huge dog with big strong legs car­ry­ing huge pay­loads and march­ing along­side sol­diers as they cross moun­tain­ous or even dessert regions! One great fea­ture of the Big­dog is force-con­trolled tech­nol­ogy. With its quadruped gait, the ro­bot dog, or mule as some call it, can re­gain bal­ance if it is kicked, han­dle rough ter­rain like rocks, and climb in­clines up to 35 de­grees.

Last year, the com­pany re­vealed a big­ger and more use­ful beast co­de­named LS3 or Bull­dog. While the orig­i­nal Big­dog could carry a pay­load of about 150 kg up to 20 km with­out hav­ing to re­fuel, the new model can carry 180 kg up to about 30 km. It is also qui­eter and can jump over ob­sta­cles, right it­self af­ter a fall and nav­i­gate with greater au­ton­omy than its pre­de­ces­sor.

Grow­ing in­tel­li­gence

De­spite the in­creas­ing phys­i­cal ca­pa­bil­ity and other ben­e­fits of ro­bots, why are peo­ple still scep­ti­cal about their im­pend­ing role in war? Is it sim­ply be­cause these are sup­pos­edly less in­tel­li­gent than hu­mans? While this is true to a large ex­tent, the fact is that ro­bots are slowly be­com­ing more in­tel­li­gent.

“The level of in­tel­li­gence varies from ro­bot to ro­bot, de­pend­ing on the mis­sion the ro­bot is used for. A ro­bot must at least be able to op­er­ate au­tonomously to the ex­tent that the sol­dier can con­cen­trate on the task at hand. It should act as a tool to re­duce his load and not as a bur­den and tech­nol­ogy bar­rier. In gen­eral, ro­bots need not be highly in­tel­li­gent but have to be smart, sim­ple to use and main­tain,” opines Azad.

‘In­tel­li­gence’ in robotics is a very loosely- used term, but gen­er­ally it re­volves around the way a sys­tem re­sponds to the feed­back from the ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment and changes. An­other chal­lenge is the pro­cess­ing of data cap­tured from var­i­ous sen­sors used in the ro­bot. In all cases, time in the or­der of mil­lisec­onds is of the high­est pri­or­ity, as lives de­pend on the re­sponse of these sys­tems.

Nowa­days, ex­tremely com­plex soft­ware sys­tems are be­ing de­vel­oped to im­prove the in­tel­li­gence of ro­bots. How­ever, as far as mil­i­tary ro­bots go, any such tech­nol­ogy has to be tested time and again to prove its re­li­a­bil­ity be­fore de­ploy­ment be­cause it is a mat­ter of lives.

“Ro­bots in de­fence, like the KMAX, surely have ex­tremely high lev­els of in­tel­li­gence. Their learn­ing al­go­rithms are ex­tremely ef­fec­tive, us­ing var­i­ous ma­chine learn­ing tech­niques. Most of these tech­niques are

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