Army to enlist robots to pull Soldiers off battlefield

One day, unmanned vehicles, similar to but larger than this small unmanned ground vehicle, may roll onto battlefields to rescue downed Soldiers, said the commander of the Army Medical Department Center and School. (U.S. Army photo by Stephen Baack)

One day, unmanned vehicles, similar to but larger than this small unmanned ground vehicle, may roll onto battlefields to rescue downed Soldiers, said the commander of the Army Medical Department Center and School. (U.S. Army photo by Stephen Baack)

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 22, 2015) — Most Americans have seen at least one war movie, where at some point a fresh-faced young private is hit with some shrapnel. From the ground, he calls out for the unit medic — another young guy, from another small town, whose quick reaction and skill just may save his life.

In the near future, however, it may no longer be another Soldier, who comes running to his side. Instead, it might be an Army-operated unmanned aerial or ground vehicle, said Maj. Gen. Steve Jones, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and Schooland chief of the Medical Corps.

“We have lost medics throughout the years because they have the courage to go forward and rescue their comrades under fire,” Jones said. “With the newer technology, with the robotic vehicles we are using even today to examine and to detonate IEDs [improvised explosive devices], those same vehicles can go forward and retrieve casualties.

Jones spoke at an Association of the U.S. Army-sponsored medical conference near the Pentagon, Sept. 22.

“We already use robots on the battlefield today to examine IEDs, to detonate them,” he said. “With some minor adaptation, we could take that same technology and use it to extract casualties that are under fire. How many medics have we lost, or other Soldiers, because they have gone in under fire to retrieve a casualty? We can use a robotics device for that.”

Jones said unmanned vehicles used to recover injured Soldiers could be armored to protect those Soldiers on their way home. But the vehicles could do more than just recover Soldiers, he said. With units operating forward, sometimes behind enemy lines, the medical community could use unmanned aerial vehicle systems, or UAVs, to provide support to them.

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