The modern battlefield requires soldiers who are able to adapt quickly to any mission and as robots join them, they'll have to do the same. At the Singapore Airshow 2016 this week, Estonian defense company Milrem took the wraps off its robotic Tracked Hybrid Modular Infantry System (THeMIS) – a compact battlewagon billed as the "first-of-its-kind modular hybrid Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV)" that acts as a multi-mission vehicle platform to assist or replace soldiers on the battlefield.
According to Milrem, the key to THeMIS is its modular design. In other words, it's a bit like one of those toy building kits where you swap out various bits and pieces to create different machines. In the case of THeMIS, the basic system consists of a pair of tracked pods separated by a central platform.
Each pod has independent electronics as well as power packs that are either electric or diesel driven. When they're assembled they form a two-track remote controlled or autonomous robot measuring 2.5 x 2 x 0.6 m (8.2 x 6.5 x 2 ft) and weighing in at 700 kg (1,543 lb) with the capability of carrying the same in payload. Top speed is 50 km/h (31 mph) and the THeMIS can run for 8 hours on a full battery charge and fuel tank.
Milrem says that this modular approach reduces costs, allows new versions of the UGV to be developed quickly and simplifies maintenance. In addition. the platform allows the vehicle to carry a number of modules for different missions, such as communications relay, medevac, training, mine clearance, supply transport, weapons platform for infantry and anti-tank operations, lifting, UAV base, or firefighting.
One example of these modular robots is a THeMIS that's on display at the Singapore Airshow. Called the THeMIS ADDER, it was developed jointly with Singapore Technologies Kinetics (ST Kinetics) and includes an ST Kinetics RWS ADDER remote weapon station, which features a robotic machine gun.
"Unmanned systems will play a significant role in the development of military capabilities in future," says Kuldar Vaarsi, CEO of Milrem. "Within the next ten years, we will see smart ground systems complementing the human troops during joint missions. We are excited to be in cooperation with ST Kinetics for THeMIS ADDER, and we're sure that this universal UGV concept will effectively supplement defense capabilities on a battalion level."
Milrem says that it has completed initial running tests of the THeMIS prototype and THeMIS will go into production in 2017.
The video below shows the THeMIS demonstrating its moves.