Long have soldiers practiced their shooting skills at a firing range, shooting at paper targets to develop their marksmanship. Static paper targets pale in comparison to moving humanoid targets out in the field, however, which is where these slightly creepy four-wheeled robots come in. Designed to simulate more realistic battlefield conditions, these robots will replace the paper targets with moving targets which can drive in and out of cover and move around corners.
Developed by Marathon Targets, these robots are far from attractive to look at (which may be appealing when they are designed to be shot), looking like the upper torso of a dummy attached to a piece of machinery, they are far smarter and more well built than first appears. Using a combination of GPS guidance systems and a laser-based obstacle avoidance system with a range of 25 meters, the bots can easily be controlled from a remote location via laptop and even feedback to the operator when and where they were shot, like a high-tech way of checking the bullet holes in a target. Despite packing all of this technology, their most impressive feat is that the manufacturer reports that each robot can handle being shot thousands of times and still maintain its structure and operability.
Recently, the robots were tested by Marines from the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton in California who provided a positive initial response to their usage. The Department of Defense released footage of the exercises, which shows Marines shooting at the robotic targets, who react to gunshot ‘wounds’ by tipping their ‘body’ at an angle.
Certainly not as cheap as a few pieces of paper down at the firing range, however, these robots show a new way of training the next generation of soldiers to be more effective against moving targets. Let’s just hope they don’t take it personally or we could be facing a robot uprising against bots able to take hundreds of shots and keep going.