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National Guard Seeks to Further Robot Applications

The U.S. National Guard looks to further implement the use of robots in missions, adding to the number of robotic applications observed in the force. The National Guard already employs robots for engineering, explosive disposal, chemical threat detection and reconnaissance, the U.S. Army said Tuesday.

Bryan McVeigh, force protection project manager of the Army's Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support, said the National Guard plans to implement robots with more generalized functions. The force's robots are divided into four types, with sizes that vary based on mission requirements.

The 25-pound Common Robotic System is a smaller platform designed to perform building clearance, detect explosives and identify targets. The golf car-sized Squad Multi-purpose Equipment Transport or SMET can carry up to 1,000 pounds of a squad's necessities including water and ammunition. The force uses the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station to fire machine guns while inside a vehicle, eliminating the need for turrets.

McVeigh's team is working to develop a similar weaponized version of SMET. The National Guard also wants to apply a common control system for future robots.

"If I can have a common controller that is basically app-based, the same button you use on one [robot] for forward is the same button you're going to use on all of them for forward," said McVeigh. "It significantly reduces the cognitive burden on Soldiers who are entering 16, 24 and beyond hours on a mission because it's rote memory," he added.

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