Autonomous Robots in the Fog of War

Networks of autonomous robots will someday transform warfare, but significant hurdles remain

11 min read
Autonomous Robots in the Fog of War
Photo-Illustration: noemotion

Two small planes fly low over a village, methodically scanning the streets below. Within minutes, they spot their target near the edge of town. With no way to navigate through the streets, they radio for help. Soon after, a metallic blue SUV begins moving cautiously but purposefully along the dirt roads leading to town, seeking out the target's GPS coordinates. Meanwhile, the planes continue to circle overhead, gathering updated information about the target and its surroundings. In less than half an hour after the planes take to the sky, the SUV has zeroed in on its quarry. Mission accomplished.

Last fall, my research team fielded these vehicles at Fort Benning, Ga., during the U.S. Army's Robotics Rodeo. That's right, the two quarter-scale Piper Cub aircraft and the Porsche Cayenne operated without any humans at the controls. Instead, each robot had an onboard computer running collaborative software that transformed the three machines into an autonomous, interoperable system.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

The EV Transition Explained: Can the Grid Cope?

Palo Alto offers a glimpse at the challenges municipalities and utilities face

8 min read
A man plugging a charger into an outlet

Enel’s JuiceBox 240-volt Level 2 charger for electric vehicles.

Enel X Way USA

There have been vigorous debates pro and con in the United States and elsewhere over whether electric grids can support EVs at scale. The answer is a nuanced “perhaps.” It depends on several factors, including the speed of grid-component modernization, the volume of EV sales, where they occur and when, what kinds of EV charging are being done and when, regulator and political decisions, and critically, economics.

The city of Palo Alto, Calif. is a microcosm of many of the issues involved. Palo Alto boasts the highest adoption rate of EVs in the United States: In 2020, one in six of the town’s 25,000 households owned an EV. Of the 52,000 registered vehicles in the city, 4,500 are EVs, and on workdays, commuters drive another 3,000 to 5,000 EVs to enter the city. Residents can access about 1,000 charging ports spread over 277 public charging stations, with another 3,500 or so charging ports located at residences.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

The James Webb Space Telescope was a Career-Defining Project for Janet Barth

NASA’s first female engineering chief was there from conception to first light

5 min read
portrait of older woman in light blue jacket against dark gray background Info for editor if needed:
Sue Brown

Janet Barth spent most of her career at the Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md.—which put her in the middle of some of NASA’s most exciting projects of the past 40 years.

She joined the center as a co-op student and retired in 2014 as chief of its electrical engineering division. She had a hand in Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions, launching the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, and developing the James Webb Space Telescope.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

Industrial Functional Safety Training from UL Solutions

Build knowledge and skills to better navigate today's functional safety landscape

3 min read

UL Solutions offer personnel certification at both the professional and expert levels in automotive, autonomous vehicles, electronics and semiconductors, machinery, industrial automation, and cybersecurity.

UL Solutions

This is a sponsored article brought to you by UL Solutions.

Invest in building your team’s excellence with functional safety training and certification services from UL Solutions, a global safety science leader.

Our UL Certified Functional Safety Certification programs provide your team opportunities to learn about — or deepen their existing knowledge and skills in — functional safety to achieve professional credentials in this space.

We offer personnel certification at both the professional and expert levels in automotive, autonomous vehicles, electronics and semiconductors, machinery, industrial automation, and cybersecurity.

You can now register for any of the offerings listed below. All our instructor-led, virtual courses provide a deep dive into key functional safety standards.

Keep Reading ↓Show less