They're used to defuse IEDs and for disaster search-and-rescue operations and laparoscopic surgery. When will we learn to trust smart machines?
A quarter-million years ago a particularly resourceful Stone Age caveman fashioned his first spear for thrusting or throwing at the enemy. Since then, technology has provided ways to fight smarter, win faster, and preserve life. In the 20th century, human knowledge, coupled with sophisticated software algorithms, high-speed microelectronics, and silicon-based materials, have made tremendous headway in the field of robotics. Today, the United States uses robots in a variety of military operations. In the urban battlefields of Iraq, explosive ordnance disposal units are employing Packbots to detect and defuse roadside improvised explosive devices. At an elevation of 65,000 feet, the RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV is using its integrated sensor suite to survey 40,000 square miles of Pakistani terrain. At the submarine base in Pearl Harbor, Navy divers are conducting a hull inspection of a nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine using a miniature camera mounted on a tethered 18-inch waterborne vehicle.