While most of the news over the last several years has been about the ramp-up of drone use across the planet in everything from the standard form of military planes down to mosquito-sized nanodrones, the U.S. military has also been increasingly focused on robots that can patrol the world’s bodies of water.
In order to provide the flexibility that is often required for the challenging environments and terrain that the military encounters, military robotics researchers continue to look at nature for inspiration. So far, in the air we have been treated with an array that includes the following forms deployed in unison, or potentially swarms:
Beneath the surface, however, only rudimentary attempts have been made such as Project Silent Nemo’s fish drone, or the clunky looking Robocod. Apparently, the U.S. military is preparing to make huge leaps in underwater spybots according to a report by former Marine veteran Todd South writing for ArmyTimes.
Based on the complex dynamics of the squid, the military sees the possibility of employing 3D printing to construct flexible components that will vastly increase movement abilities as well as permit soldiers to build these devices on the spot wherever the need arises. It’s a project that is being pursued by the Army Research Laboratory working with the University of Minnesota (publicly funded of course):
The prototypes that Habtour (ARL researcher) and fellow ARL researchers developed gave 3D-printed actuators three times the movement as what’s been tested before.
The material that they’ve used in their testing will bend in any direction when hit with electricity.
“In the initial phase of the project, our team began by investigating new methods for emulating the locomotion of invertebrates,” said Michael McAlpine, a professor at the University of Minnesota.
That helped researchers learn how to apply the natural movement of invertebrates like squids to produce “high bending motions without skeletal support,” McAlpine said.
It’s disturbing enough to potentially see these deployed across the world by the U.S. military, but if researchers are able to successfully create the mechanics, it will only get worse as they’d like to see a day where presumably artificial intelligence can make their new creation “self-aware”:
“If we can understand these interactions, then we can use those insights to fabricate dynamic structures and flexible robots which are designed to be self-aware, self-sensing and capable of adjusting their morphologies and properties in real time to adapt to a myriad of external and internal conditions,” Habtour said.
Although this project could very well be yet another money grab for funding, or just a standard military boondoggle, the pursuit itself indicates the mindset and dreams of those we’ve charged with our defense. More and more it appears that these are the last people we should allow to create new forms of intelligence.
Nicholas West writes for Activist Post. Support us at Patreon for as little as $1 per month. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Steemit, and BitChute. Ready for solutions? Subscribe to our premium newsletter Counter Markets.
Image credit: Pixabay