Ground robots that pull drones into battle are a trend at the Paris arms fair


PARIS — The next generation of robot warfare is evolving through collaboration between ground and air robots, each pushing the other forward.

The US company Teledyne Flir presented a new unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) at the local Eurosatory trade fair, on which its nano-drone Black Hornet 4 is mounted.

The floor robot, called SUGV 325, is light enough to be carried by a single person and has an arm-like structure for grasping objects.

“We see robots as good unmanned partners for unmanned aerial systems. You can take the good qualities of the robots – eight hours of runtime, the ability to carry heavier payloads and endurance – and combine them with the agility and speed of the drone,” Nate Winn, director of product management for unmanned systems at Teledyne, told Defense News.

Both tools can be used to extend each other's reach. For example, if the high-resolution cameras on board the UGV detect something, the drone can be launched from the robot using the same controller to investigate potential threats further away.

The unmanned duo also makes it possible to increase the distance between a threat and military personnel on the battlefield, Winn added.

“Every action on the battlefield begins with gathering intelligence. That's why the robot and/or unmanned aerial system should be the first port of call in any potentially threatening situation,” he said.

The US Army is apparently experimenting with the integration of drones and combat robots into combat units.

Last month, footage surfaced on social media featuring the U.S. Army's Sandhills Project logo showing over a dozen drones being launched from a UGV in less than 15 seconds.

Another robot-on-robot combination at the show was the Mission Master CXT from Rheinmetall Canada, armed with a tethered drone from the French company Elistair.

“We have already integrated it into our Mission Master command and control software, which means that a single operator can use the same control tablet to control the UGV and the connected drone,” said Etienne Rancourt, director of international business development at Rheinmetall Canada.

The Elistair drone can also follow the Mission Master autonomously at a height of 30 meters, he added.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is Defense News' European correspondent. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.