How robots are helping Marines save lives on battlefield


Marines are known for risking their lives on the battlefield, but more and more, robot technology is helping to avoid those dangers and save lives.

At this year’s Fleet Week celebrations in New York, Marine specialists showed Fox News National Security Analyst KT McFarland the latest technology they are using in combat.

One of those machines, the Mark II Talon is proving to be a crucial robot for Marines in the field.

“We use this for going downrange on any suspicious devices or packages that we have. This helps out to keep the [specialists] away and keeps the personnel safe,” said Staff Sgt. Mike Hill.

The Marines have used this type of robot in the U.S. as well as in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hill, who recently served in Afghanistan, says his team always carried the robot with them on missions. “Whenever I would come upon a device, the first thing I would do is put the robot down to go look at it.”

Four cameras are mounted on the robot. This gives the Marines a multi-view, close-up look at a potential threat. This helps “us to see all aspects of what we are dealing with and what we have done there,” said Hill.

It is also equipped with a gripping feature on the front of the robot that allows it to work on suspicious devices.

The Packbot is another robot utilized by the Marines in combat. Compared with other machines, its compact size helps the military in more complex situations.

“As opposed to the other robots, it’s a little smaller, but it’s also quicker and more versatile and it has good line of sight and it could do a lot of stuff for us remotely so we don’t have to – it can go out there and put itself in the line of danger,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Hrncir.

The Marines can control the Packbot via a live feed from several hundred yards away. “Several cameras all around giving us a 360 [degree view] … on the front, back, and also on the arms so we can look at the gripper as well to make sure we know what we are picking up.”

Its controller might seem familiar to most – Marines control it with a joystick just like ones used for gaming systems. This allows the user to more smoothly control the Packbot’s movements.

Robots, Marines reiterated, will become more frequent sights on the battlefield, especially as the technology advances in the next several years.

However, while support grows, there are still some concerns. According to a recent report by the Center for a New American Security, robots “have been used to great effect in current operations but are still in their infancy in terms of their full potential.”

Monday, the Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) put out a call to the wider public to help develop robots to bolster national security. “We spend too much time creating three- to four-year solutions for six-month problems … we want this new generation of robotics innovators” to help develop breakthrough technologies said Mark Micire, DARPA program manager, in a statement.