Israeli army infantry units will receive an experimental deployment of robots in September to carry some of their field equipment, a task previously performed by llamas.
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The Israel Defense Forces has no plans currently to arm these robots, but this could happen at a later stage.
The new robots, called infantry robotic porters, are made in Israel and can carry up to 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of water, food, ammunition, etc. They can also be used to evacuate wounded soldiers from a war zone.
Llamas were previously used to carry equipment, including during the Second Lebanon War, but in subsequent years it was decided to stop using them after complaints they were holding the soldiers back.
The IDF claims the new robots will function on rough terrain and be controlled remotely. In the future, these robots may navigate independently. They can travel at speeds of 5 to 10 kilometers (3 to 6 miles) per hour, but soldiers will be able to adjust the speed to match their own pace. The robots are powered by batteries, which can operate for up to eight hours without being recharged.
The robotic porters have already participated in battalion and regimental exercises. They will be deployed in infantry units on a trial basis “in order to study their capabilities,” says an officer in a technology unit involved in such matters.
He said that on difficult or steep terrain they may require assistance from soldiers, who will have to stabilize them on a slope. “Even if they get stuck they can be left behind,” he added. The officer said that at present there is no intention of mounting weapons on the robots, but that this could happen in the future.
The IDF operates several vehicles by remote control, making extensive use of unmanned aerial vehicles, small nautical vessels and ground vehicles in the Gaza area.
The army has recently started arming the latter border-protecting vehicles, with weapons remotely operated by soldiers in a distant war-room.
The Gaza border area also features weapons that are mounted on top of watch towers, which can be operated remotely by observers in another location.