Military invests in spider robots

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

It sounds like a Marvel Comics mash-up: mix one part Spider-Man and one part Iron Man, shrink to the size of Ant Man, and what do you get? Tiny robot spiders and insects.

According to reports in the Telegraph and Daily Mail in the UK, British military contractor BAE Systems is developing robots that look like crawling and flying critters for use on battlefields, where they can act as scouts, relaying visual; and other sensory information to soldiers.

The Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (Mast) project has been funded by a $38 million US grant to BAE by the US Army Research Laboratory for use by America and Britain, the company said.

As program manager Steve Scalera told the Telegraph: "We’re trying to harness nature’s designs. Evolution has done a fabulous job of producing extremely efficient and capable systems. We’re building a collection of miniature robots that can explore complex terrain we wouldn’t normally be able to approach because it is too dangerous."

And as with the contestants in the DARPA road race, the BAE robots will be autonomous, without input from the soldiers.

U.S. military officials haven't been shy about their desire to get robots to replace humans in combat zones, as two officials told CBCNews.ca's Peter Nowak recently. Now it appears they want robots to replace animals, too.