Boston Dynamics robot dog Spot was one of several robots tested by the French military during training sessions at a military school in northwestern France, The Verge and France Ouest have reported. It was used during a two-day training session aimed at “measuring the added value of robots in combat operations,” said school commander Jean-Baptiste Cavalier.
The exercises were designed to get students thinking about how robots might be used in future combat situations. The students designed three offensive and defensive missions, using Spot primarily for reconnaissance. The scenarios were conducted by the students first without and then with the help of the robots. Other bots deployed included a remote-controlled tank-like vehicle called OPTIO-X20 armed with a cannon and Barakuda, an armored wheeled drone designed to provide cover for advancing soldiers.
The robots reportedly slowed the operation but kept troops safer, with one soldier saying he died during the first exercise without Spot, but survived the second time thanks to the robot’s reconnaissance. Battery life was reportedly an issue, as Spot ran out of power during one exercise.
The robots were loaned to the military by European distributor Shark Robotics and Nexter Group, according to a tweet from the military school Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan. Spot manufacturer Boston Robotics, however, had no knowledge of the deployment, a spokesperson told The Verge.
Some of Boston Dynamics’ early robots, including Atlas, were funded by the DARPA branch of the U.S. military, but the company has slowly moved away from its military ties. The company’s current terms prohibit them from being used to “harm or intimidate a person or animal, as a weapon, or to enable a weapon.”
Still, Boston Robotics is not necessarily against using robots to take out soldiers, the company says and is still evaluating the idea of using robots for reconnaissance and other more passive tasks. Competitor Ghost Robotics’ Spot-like bots have already been used by the U.S. military to patrol air force installations.
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