Infantry: Singapore Seeks Autonomous Combat Robots


January30, 2007: Singapores Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) has offered a prize of $652,000 for whoever can produce an autonomous combat robot capable of fighting in urban areas. In other words, a street fighting droid.

There will be a competition in May, 2008, to decide who, if anyone, gets the prize. The test will consist of having the robots move around an urban area, both indoors and outdoors, and accomplish a set of tasks within a specified time. It is believed that live ammunition will not be used, but the robots may be armed.

The DSTA competition is pushing the state of the art in sensor, battery and AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology. However, such autonomous droids are not outside the bounds of possibility. The AI is already being demonstrated in computer games, and the sensors are close, perhaps close enough, as well. We'll have to wait for a year to see if there are any viable entrants, and until May 2008 to see how this robot battle plays out.

So far, combat droids have been remote controlled vehicles, used for scouting or destroying roadside bombs. Most of these robots have been American, and there has been lots of reluctance in the Pentagon to giving the troops robots that can act on their own.


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