US army wants the wheel thing for base security

Robots designed to replace soldiers for military base security are to be demonstrated this week by the US government.

The US Defence department hopes to save millions of dollars by replacing patrolling humans in vehicles with wheeled automatons.

In development since 1993, the robot is known as the Mobile Detection Assessment Response System (MDARS).

The robots will be performing at the Force Protection Equipment Demonstration IV event, at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, and are expected to enter service in early 2006.

The robot’s manufacturer, General Dynamics Robotic Systems, has tested the devices against a variety of intruders, said Brian Frederick, MDARS programme manager.

‘For tests we have what we call skilled and unskilled intruders. A skilled intruder is someone who is actually trying to hide from the robot, and unskilled is someone who probably doesn’t even know the robot exists. We try to see how we do against both types of intruder. And typically we have both our own personnel acting as intruders and also military police, or other army personnel.’

There are two variations of the MDARS robot, Exterior and Interior, which both carry out inventory checks using RFID technology.

The interior robot counts materials in warehouses, while the exterior version will travel around army installations to monitor storage bunkers. The droid will check to ensure the door is secure and take an inventory without entering. The robot can also count equipment stored outside, such as parked vehicles.

The robots were originally designed to carry an undefined type of less-lethal weapon to disable intruders. But this was abandoned following advice from US army lawyers, and the robot will now simply notify a control centre of intruders.