The silent assassin: Robots may perform military missions

April 18th, 2011 - 11:56 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 18 (IANS) The next time you are at home or office, watch out for ninja robots. They may be hiding in the bedroom closet or under your desk. These stealthy robots hide to avoid human detection and their main task is to perform military missions.

So stay calm if you spot this uninvited guest sneaking into your compound. Lockheed Martin, the company that brought us stealth aircraft, is developing this silent assassin, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

“The main goal of this research is to enable robots to perform military missions more effectively,” the Monitor quoted Brian Satterfield, lead engineer on the project at Lockheed, as saying.

“Approaching a location of interest without alerting the enemy is a basic capability of many missions. Some example tasks include performing surveillance or depositing a payload,” he explained.

Other robots might use more conventional travelling algorithms, but Lockheed’s creation is far more complex.

It uses satellite imagery to create a map of its surroundings, then fills in the blanks with a scanning laser. This allows the robot to seek out potential hiding places, Satterfield said.

The robot, which currently has no name, looks more like half dismantled remote control car than a silent assassin, according to the Monitor.

The robot derives its stealth capability from a complex array of sensors that recognizes human footsteps and voices, not from its shape.

“The key was developing a model of the world that accurately reflected the chances of being detected by sentries,” Satterfield said. “If the robot believed it was in danger of being detected, it would attempt to reach a hiding location.”

The stealthy robot has four main missions: Avoiding detection by humans in a known location, avoiding detection by humans in an unknown location, avoiding areas where escape would be difficult, and avoiding areas that are well-lit, according to the Monitor last week.

Though this robot may seem perfect for playing practical jokes or performing stealthy errands, the military applications remain the primary focus.

Satterfield and his team used a sample scenario to demonstrate this, in which the robot performed covert surveillance on a building.

“The robot successfully detects the sentry, hides behind the Dumpster, and then reappears when the sentry is no longer detected to resume surveillance,” the Monitor quoted Satterfield as saying.

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