Indian Scientists Are Working on a Robot to Patrol the Borders

An Indian research body revealed plans of an all-terrain Artificial Intelligence-enabled prototype to enhance defence abilities.

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03 May 2019, 11:18am

Image for representational purposes only. Photo: Unsplash

While we’re out here debating whether we’d like to have sex with a robot or rather it leave a bun in our oven, a bunch of scientists in India just revealed a secret project they’ve been working on: all-terrain Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered robots ready for combat.

Scientists from defence Public Sector Undertaking Bharat Electronics Limited’s (BEL) Central Research Laboratory (CRL) in Bengaluru, India, have been discreetly working on robots that may eventually patrol the country’s border. They began tinkering with this project to build a first responder robot back in December 2018, but the very first prototype is expected to be ready by December 2019.

“AI will change how some critical operations are conducted by the armed forces, and our robot will even been able to patrol the borders,” Gowthama MV, the Chairman and Managing Director at BEL, told national daily Times Of India.

While there have been no specific requirements sent by the Armed Forces so far, Gowthama says he wants to focus on the research and development aspect to build capabilities with this robot prototype.

The BEL robot will be well-equipped with sensors and coded to communicate with the control centre whenever required. It will also have the ability to conduct surveillance and aim to be at the front in post-disaster situations like the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka. One of the main issues in building such a robot, however, is the massive need for raw data to customise algorithms that will instruct the robot to perform very specific tasks.

India is a country with a history of conflict at its borders with Pakistan, China and Bangladesh. While the country swore in its first robocop in the state of Kerala in February, the main objective of these robot prototypes is to save the lives of security personnel placed at these borders. The estimated cost of these robots will be in the range of Rs 70-80 lakh per unit for small orders, but the price could possibly reduce if the army places large orders, according to the report.

Globally, companies like iRobot Corporation, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Mitsubishi and more have been working on building such robots. While Israel’s Gaza border-patrolling robot, Guardium, is seen as one of the most advanced machines to do so, South Korea has also been successful in building Avatar-inspired robots to man the border.

And even though most dystopian pop culture movies will tell you that giving a robot a gun may not be the best of ideas, developments like these mean we’re one step closer to the age of automation.

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