Robot Soldiers in the Field

Sometimes engineering doesn’t work out the way we planned. We’ll take a look at battlefield robots, today on Engineering Works!

Top brass in the German army are raving about some new equipment that they say will give their soldiers a big advantage on the battlefield. The soldiers who use the new gear aren’t so enthusiastic. They say it’s too bulky, too heavy and unreliable.

The new equipment package, the – infantryman of the future – looks like something out of a science fiction movie. Think Robo Cop.

The new combat gear starts with a protective vest. Plus a built-in mini-computer, new radios and protective goggles. The whole package costs almost 30-thousand-dollars. Each.

And guess what? A lot of the German soldiers who have used it for real in Afghanistan hate it. The body armor is so bulky that soldiers wearing it have to scrunch down whenever they get into a vehicle. Really uncomfortable. The goggles tend to fog up at anything more than a brisk walk.

Then there’s the computer, which includes a satellite navigation system and electronic maps. It doesn’t have enough memory, and sometimes just plain gives wrong answers. The new radios don’t have enough range, and their earpieces tend to fall out of soldiers’ ears.

One fed-up field commander has suggested that the army start over and replace parts of it with off-the-shelf equipment that would work better and be cheaper, to boot. We hope our engineering words are working better than that. See you next time. (11.02.2010, Tracy Staedter)

America the Beautiful

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