We often hear that the world of the future will abound in robots. This idea is so deeply rooted in our minds by Hollywood that most of us picture the planet of tomorrow something like the one portrayed in I, robot or Terminator. Being full of anticipation (or sometimes apprehension) we fail to notice that the future is already here, at least as far as robots are concerned.
Automated mechanical devices have become widespread in many spheres of contemporary life. From adjusting the height of your desk, cooking your meals, hiding a computer monitor under your table to making all your domestic gadgets work together, linear motion technology is becoming a part of day to day lives.
Given the ubiquity of automation all around us, it is natural to presume the existence of robots working for the military.
History of Military Robots
Although military robotics is considered to be state-of-the-art technology it is at least a century old. Military robot’s facts indicate that autonomous devices started to be used on the battlefield during World War I. Back then the savvy of engineers from belligerent nations worked along similar ways. They sought to design remote-controlled vehicles that would carry explosives to the enemy’s positions. In 1916, the French succeeded in creating Crocodile Schneider Torpille Terrestre able to carry up to 40 kg charge but its testing exposed the unreliability of the machine. Two years later, the Wickersham Land Torpedo was patented in the USA that, however, never reached the production stage.
In the 1930s, two most military-minded regimes (Nazi and Soviet) developed radio-controlled tanks with the same bomb-delivery mission in view. The German Goliath looked like a baby tank while the Soviet Teletank was a full-sized track vehicle and both were successfully used during World War II.
It was at that time that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) later known as drones made their first appearance. Yet the development of these devices gathered impressive momentum only in later decades. During the Vietnam War drones were widely employed for reconnaissance, propaganda distribution, and missile launching. The latter assignment was also entrusted to ground vehicles, such as Shakey that contained a wheeled platform and a computer that could navigate the missile.
Different Types of Military Robots
What is a military robot of today? The latest robots are autonomous or remote-controlled machines applied for a variety of military assignments – from transport and search to rescue and attack.
What do military robots do? They stand guard performing sentry duties, exercise reconnaissance, serve logistic purposes, deliver targeted airstrikes, help in explosive disposal and disarming bombs, etc. In short, these are robots doing dangerous jobs to lower combat risks to people.
So far, they can’t replace soldiers but engineers are working on it. Modern military bots can follow orders becoming frighteningly human-like which will definitely shape the warfare in the years to come. However smart future military robots may become, their counterparts of today have still a long way to go to live up to such expectations. Yet, they are extensively used by high-tech armies of the world.
The current development of military robotics proceeds essentially along the lines adumbrated in the previous century and focuses on further sophistication of UAVs and miniature vehicles mounted on tank tracks.
Since exploration is a key factor in successful warfare flying robots of today are just indispensable for watching over troop location and movement – both friendly and hostile. Some of them (like FQM-151 Pointer) look like toy airplanes, others (like RQ-4A Global Hawk) are full-sized remotely-controlled aircraft. The most advanced drone models, for instance, the Predator, can not only spot the enemy’s forces but also attack them with missiles.
Portable track vehicles are by far the most widespread type of military robots. Their functions range from audio and video surveillance to combat tasks since they can cross virtually any terrain (including rivers) and may be supplied with various weapon packages. For example, MATILDA has a number of configurations featuring a mechanical arm, disrupter units, and a whole gamut of cameras and sensors.
Both mentioned types of military robots, as well as manned military machinery, require motion control systems represented by linear actuators.
Military Linear Actuators
A linear actuator is a device that turns rotary motion into linear and is utilized where the precision of smooth motion is imperative. The defense industry imposes high demand upon the quality of actuators since they must function under unfavorable weather and natural conditions such as high/low temperatures, high altitude, excessive moisture, dirt, sand, etc. They must be able to operate for a long time with next-to-no maintenance and conform to all military codes and stipulations.
Evidently, hydraulic and pneumatic linear actuators fall short of these provisos since they require pumps, valves, and hoses, are characterized by substantial energy consumption, high risks of leakages, and incur significant expenditures on fluid maintenance. That is why a sensible choice of actuators for military purposes is an electric linear actuator. These devices are extensively leveraged in the military sphere.
Military Applications of Linear Actuators
Electric linear actuators’ applications vary depending on where military machinery is used.
● On-land military equipment. Installed on tanks, personnel carriers, and stealth vehicles linear actuators are instrumental in gun laying and elevating, turret control, launch lock mechanism optimization, door/hatch movement, and other processes.
● Marine military equipment. Linear actuators ensure the torque necessary for efficient maneuvering of boats, ships, and other vessels. Besides, naval applications of actuators encompass load conveyors and hatch movement procurement, cargo ramp positioning, jet blast detecting, etc.
● Airborne military equipment. Here actuators operate in harshest environments, so flawless functioning and safety are two key demands they must comply with. They are typically used for hatch/door and fuel valve control as well as in test stands and inlet guide vanes.
Irrespective of the equipment type, linear actuators are universally used by the defense industry to obtain high weapon resolution on restricted stroke.