Rheinmetall's new armed reconnaissance robot also provides fire support
Rheinmetall has unveiled its latest armed battlefield robot designed for tactical intelligence gathering and combat support. Part of the company's Mission Master Autonomous – Unmanned Ground Vehicle (A-UGV) family, the Mission Master – Armed Reconnaissance system is capable of not only carrying out recon missions, but also providing fire support for troops.
As military robots become more sophisticated and autonomous, they've been taking on a wider variety of missions. Where an army robot was once little more than a remote controlled arm on a motorized trolley to disarm bombs, they are now autonomous machines capable of running supply convoys, standing guard duty, and carrying out reconnaissance missions.
Additionally, the command and control systems for these battlefield robots have gone from simple joysticks and a cable to intricate radio cybernetworks that allow a single operator to control entire teams of autonomous robots.
An example of these trends can be seen in Rheinmetall's Mission Master – Armed Reconnaissance robot, which is designed for high-risk scouting missions that require real-time retrieval of large amounts of data. To do this, the company took its Mission Master platform and added a sensor suite and a Rheinmetall Fieldranger Remote-Controlled Weapon Station (RCWS) to provide fire support when needed.
The sensor suite includes a set of long-range Electro-Optical/and InfraRed (EO/IR) sensors, a 360-degree full-ring camera, a laser rangefinder and a laser targeting system. In addition, there's an 11.5-ft (3.5-m) extendable, tilting mast to allow the robot to survey areas from under cover that can be stowed to allow the machine to be carried inside transports like the CH-47 Chinook.
For command and control, the Mission Master – Armed Reconnaissance robot has a "radio agnostic" communications system, which means it can link with any radio platform the user desires. Not only can it have two-way exchanges with the base, but also with other A-UGVs. Meanwhile, its autonomous functions derive from the Rheinmetall PATH autonomous kit (A-kit) that is common to the Mission Master series. PATH can be controlled by a tablet, smart watch, soldier system, or a single-hand controller and features multi-layers of protection against cyber attacks.
The Mission Master – Armed Reconnaissance robot networks to the Argus soldier system and Rheinmetall Command and Control Software that can be installed in the user's battle management system. Each robot can communicate with other Mission Masters and using artificial intelligence an entire "Wolf Pack" of them can be run by a single operator, who can concentrate on the mission itself while the autonomous robots deal with their individual tasks.
Should the Mission Master – Armed Reconnaissance robot need to engage with hostile forces, it has a Rheinmetall Fieldranger Light 7.62 mm RCWS, which has more firepower than its soldier-portable equivalent. The robot can acquire and lock onto a target, but the firing command must come from a human.