TechFirst full-scale war leveraging drones and armed robots. Inside Ukraine's technologic battlefront

First full-scale war leveraging drones and armed robots. Inside Ukraine's technologic battlefront

A robot firing at the Russians' positions.
A robot firing at the Russians' positions.
Images source: © X (formerly Twitter)

3:25 PM EST, January 13, 2024

Over the months, we've seen multiple instances of makeshift solutions and defense startup products adopted in Ukraine. These range from drones to remotely controlled turrets—some backed by artificial intelligence algorithms—and armed or mine-laying ground robots.

The ground robot used by the 5th Assault Brigade is an object of particular interest. Armed with an automatic gun of either 20 mm or 25 mm, this robot can match the firepower of the M2A2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle while significantly reducing potential human casualties.

This technology allows for the execution of more daring strikes on Russian forces. Losing a robot is much less costly in terms of human lives than losing an M2A2 Bradley and its crew.

Armed ground robots: a not-so-new idea

Numerous countries have been working on using ground robots in military operations for years. However, until 2022, the focus was mainly on their supportive roles for soldiers rather than heavily armed assault versions.

Examples include popular machines like the Estonian THeMIS, American RCVs, or the Polish Perun and RRB-01. These were originally showcased as patrol, reconnaissance, medical evacuation, or transport vehicles.

Lately, however, armed variations have emerged that not only possess firearms but also anti-tank weapons, automatic guns, and even the Skyranger 30 anti-aircraft system. Some models, such as those from South Korea, now approximate the size of regular armored vehicles.

Notably, the current robot models have relatively limited range and operating autonomy. Consequently, armored transporters often tow machines like the THeMIS into enemy fortification zones, and similar tactics may be employed here.

Referring to the Ukrainian design featured in the report appears to be the IRONCLAD robot from Roboners. It is a 4x4 drivetrain design with a hybrid engine that can carry a payload of up to 772 lbs.

The robot has a maximum range of 81 miles and can stay connected via radio for up to 3.1 or 6.2 miles with a signal booster. In cases where wireless communication isn't possible, it can be controlled via optical fiber, although this option restricts its range to only 0.6 miles.

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