The U.S. military may be 30 percent robotic by the year 2020, according to Doug Few and Bill Smart of Washington University in St. Louis.

"When the military says 'robot' they mean everything from self-driving trucks up to what you would conventionally think of as a robot. You would more accurately call them autonomous systems rather than robots," says Smart, assistant professor of computer science and engineering.

At present, all of the U.S. Army's robots are teleoperated. Current military policy is to leave human beings "in the loop" for important decision-making.

"It's a chain of command thing. You don't want to give autonomy to a weapons delivery system. You want to have a human hit the button. You don't want the robot to make the wrong decision. You want to have a human to make all of the important decisions," says Smart.

In the more distant future, though, who knows? There has been a considerable amount of development in the area of autonomous vehicles; see this article on the MULE Autonomous Navigation Vehicle By Lockheed Martin for an example.

Also, autonomous robots with the ability to open fire upon their own initiative are under development in other countries; see this article on South Korean Intelligent Surveillance and Guard Robot.

Of course, science fiction fans (and even those merely immersed in popular culture) are ready for a droid army. Remember the battle droids lined up in the Battle of Naboo from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) by George Lucas?

Source: 30pct of U.S. Army may be robotic by 2020.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission of

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