13.11.14 Drone Warfare

Podcast: military analyst Ben Barry on the rapid development of ground drones

The remote control Terrier bulldozer lets soldiers clear IEDs while staying out of harms way (Think Defence/Flickr)

In this episode of Drone News ground drone expert Ben Barry defends the development of autonomous systems.

He tells Owen Bennett-Jones that vehicles are destined to become more autonomous. Considerable investment by the US military and major defence firms like Lockheed Martin is driving forward development of military ground drones. This interest in ground drones “is driven by the number of casualties suffered by convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan from roadside bombs”.

Listen to the podcast here.

There has been “a quiet revolution actually by the British,” Barry says. The UK has used a remote-control Land Rover that travels ahead of convoys to scan for buried improvised explosive devices with ground-penetrating radar. And they have been using Terrier, an armoured bulldozer, which was “purpose built… from the outset for remote operations. So that means the three man crew can get out of the vehicle, walk away and remotely operate it from 1,000 metres away.” But as yet development is focused on machines that are still controlled remotely.

These systems are being developed at a time of considerable investment and research into unmanned and semi-autonomous vehicles by civilian companies like Google, meaning “this technology is more than likely to appear and mature in the civilian sector”.

Also in this episode, Abigail Fielding-Smith and Jack Serle discuss the US drone strikes in Yemen. The attacks are hitting in the same area where there is a bloody sectarian conflict. There is ill feeling in Yemen where people see the strikes as the US siding with a Shiite faction against Sunnis in the ongoing clashes.

Follow Jack Serle and Abigail Fielding-Smith on Twitter, sign up for monthly updates from the Bureau’s Covert War project.

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