RAND Hosts Conference on the Future of Robotics

The United States Army and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) are engaged in an ambitious effort to incorporate robotics into their vision for transforming the nation's forces for engagements in the 21st century. Many of the recently proposed approaches to using robotics, however, are simply attempts to replace human operators in risky, dirty, or difficult tasks. More innovative applications of robotic systems are needed to achieve the high-magnitude improvements in force responsiveness, lethality, survivability, and supportability called for in future warfighting.

Successful integration of robotics into the force requires an in-depth understanding of the nature of robotics, how they are interwoven with military organizations, and how individual combat actions might unfold with robotics in the force. Many organizations, including RAND, are engaged in the development and implementation of such new concepts in the force. This collaboration will be useful to government policymakers involved in framing acquisition studies and to military combat and doctrine developers in developing new approaches to deploying combat assets, as well as employing and managing them in a battlespace environment comprising traditional and nontraditional methods and weapons systems.

In pursuit of this collaboration, the RAND Arroyo Center hosted a conference on "Innovative Robotics Concepts of Operation" on December 16 and 17, 2002, to provide a forum for examining, exploring, and creating new robotic concepts of operation. The objectives of the conference were to discuss robotics applications, determine technological opportunities and limitations, formulate new operational concepts, identify analytical methodologies to evaluate the benefits of these concepts, and arrive at a research plan.

RAND analysts Randall Steeb and John Matsumura, coleaders of Arroyo's robotics effort, organized the conference, the second in a series, which was attended by several other RAND researchers and representatives from the Army and OSD.

Steeb moderated the conference. RAND researchers Yool Kim and John Stillion discussed quantitative analysis of robotics systems and the current methodology for analyzing alternatives for the next-generation gunship, respectively. Steeb and Matsumura led two of the conference's "breakout" sessions to explore innovative new concepts that were identified during the seminar, many of which involved autonomous and cooperative robotic behaviors.

The results of work done at the breakout sessions will be published in a forthcoming RAND conference proceedings document.