DARPA Killer Robots

While Asimo’s ability to walk up and down stairs was a breakthrough in robot mobility, DARPA has been pushing the envelope to develop robots that are able to autonomously and safely navigate a battlefield in combat.

Robots have been part of DARPA culture almost from day one. The agency worked to improve UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), and then known as remotely piloted vehicles, used for low altitude tactical reconnaissance over enemy territory.

DARPA work in AI (Artificial Intelligence) technologies in the 1970s spurred an interest in robotics applications, especially in academia, but the policy at DARPA itself at the time was not to emphasize robotics. Even so, the agency continued to support robotics research at Stanford and MIT through its information IPTO (Information Processing Techniques Office).

DARPA took a more direct role as it began work on a family of autonomous ground, air and sea vehicles known as the killer robots in the early 1980s. Killer Robots did lay the groundwork for DARPA’s future work while never achieving program status, as did the Strategic Computing program, a major program created in the same time frame to fund all DARPA work then rapidly evolving field of computers.

The Strategic Computing Initiative of the 1980s produced its share of disruptive technology in developing reduced instruction set processors, RAID disks, robotics, specialized graphic engines, and AI tools which are now currently mainstream. The investments by DARPA in this technology in their early and formative years have paid rich dividends.

Various DARPA efforts (including Killer Robots) become part of the new TTO Tactical Technology Office) Smart weapons program (SWP) to develop a modular family of autonomous weapons, smart. Advances in computer technology and software such as Automatic Target Recognition) were belief to finally have made a true autonomous loitering weapon possible. The size, power demands, weight, and capability of computers had been perhaps the greatest limitation on reality catching.

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