Belgium shows interest in co-development of autonomous military transport drone

Aug

28

2018

The Belgian government is considering taking part in an international project in which an autonomous land drone is being developed. It is basically a transport system and not a weapon system, although the robot could be armed.

The Belgian Minister of Defense, Steven Vandeput, confirms to De Morgen that his government is interested in the project. It is an initiative of a company from Estonia ; Finland and Latvia also participate alongside the Estonian government. In addition to Belgium, Germany and France have shown interest in the project.

According to General Marc Thys, the commander of the Belgian land forces, the robot is meant to alleviate the burden that soldiers have to measure on mission: “One of the problems is that our soldiers are overloaded, because they drag at least 30 kilograms, so then a smart mule would come in handy “. He acknowledges, however, that the land drone could also be armed.

It concerns an unmanned land vehicle that assists the soldier on the battlefield as a ‘reliable companion’. The robot must increase the speed of making decisions, relieve the load to be carried and improve endurance. The transport vehicle is equipped with an autonomous control system, ‘technology against internet attacks’ and an integrated network of sensors.

The Estonian company, Milrem Robotics, has previously developed an armed version of the robot: The Tracked Hybrid Modular Infantry System. This is a modular land robot that can serve as a means of transport, but can also be fitted with weapons. The operation of the weapons is still done by people, so this vehicle is not an autonomous weapon system.

In July, Belgium introduced a ban that would never allow killer robots , or autonomous weapon systems, to be used. The land robot to be developed can not be regarded as such a weapon system. Professor and defense specialist Alexander Mattelaer states that the robot is somewhat controversial, partly in the light of the ban, but according to him this is difficult to avoid when it comes to innovation.

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