The material is devoted to artificial intelligence systems that Russia is currently testing. The goal is to train the Russian experimental Marker ground-based combat complex to properly respond to the same orders that commanders give to real soldiers: “March! Halt! Open fire! Retreat!”
The author, David Axe, writes that this project Kremlin Foundation for Advanced Studies (Kremlin's Advanced Research Foundation) is the "Russian answer to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency».
As originally designed, the tracked Marker followed instructions that a human operator tapped into a computer tablet.
“And then we tried the voice-control technology, when a commander gives orders to both his subordinates and the robots”, - Forbes.com quotes a comment that Oleg Martyanov, the head of one of the Advanced Research Foundation centers, gave to TASS agency.
After a long delay, says David Axe, Russia finally is speeding ahead with developing sophisticated, combat-capable air and ground robots.
The air force’s Hunter-B stealth drone flew for the first time in August 2019. The Russian army in May 2018 deployed at least one Uran-9 armed ground robot to Syria for combat trials.
However, according to the Forbes.com journalist, Uran-9 didn’t quite work as its designers intended. "After just a month of combat, the Kremlin admitted the unmanned ground vehicle wasn’t ready for regular front-line use".
Forbes.com quotes the words of Andrey Anisimov, “senior research officer”, that were told during a conference held at the Kuznetsov Naval Academy: “Modern Russian combat unmanned ground vehicles are not able to perform the assigned tasks in the classical types of combat operations”.
However, Forbes.com does not specify where Andrey Anisimov exactly is working and when exactly he said this.
Meanwhile, on the Robotnew.ru news site on robotics there is material published in June last year, which says the following: “Andrey Anisimov, senior researcher at the FSBI of the Third Central Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense of Russia, made an internal report at a conference at the Naval Academy named after Kuznetsova in St. Petersburg (according to the bmpd blog, it was held from April 3 to 6, 2018). In the document, the specialist emphasized that the Uran-9 system actually failed the tests in Syria”.
That is, it turns out that this unflattering comment by a Russian specialist regarding Uran-9 has been given already two years ago.
Further, Forbes.com gives the characteristic that Uran-9, “this 12-ton, gun- and rocket-armed UGV”, analysts from the British defense firm BAE Systems said: “Unreliable”.
In addition of being incapable of handling “assigned tasks in the classical types of combat operations”, the radio-controlled Uran-9’s “thermal and electro-optical sensors proved incapable of spotting enemies beyond 1.25 miles”, Forbes.com cites the BAE Systems' representative opinion.
“Sensors, and the weapons they guided, were useless while the Uran-9 was moving due to a lack of stabilization,” the British company added. “When commands were issued, there were significant delays”. Uran-9 also is “vulnerable” to radio jamming, which can result in “loss of communications/control".
Forbes.com cites BAE: Uran-9 possesses only “limited autonomous capabilities”. The 12-ton UGV has “some limited ability to detect, identify and engage enemy forces without manual human interaction”.
ARF’s work on Marker could help to improve the reliability and autonomy of front-line UGVs such as Uran-9. The tank-size Marker seemingly borrows the chassis of an existing manned armored vehicle and thus might be simpler and tougher than the smaller, custom-designed Uran-9 is.
The near-term goal is for robots to complement, but not replace, human soldiers in Russia’s ground divisions, writes Forbes.com. A UGV would be “an assistant in all functions needed at the moment—combat, [surveillance], logistics, evac or other functions”, - according to Forbes.com, said Samuel Bendett, an analyst with the Center for Naval Analyses and the Center for a New American Security.
ARF’s experiments with human-to-robot voice commands isn’t necessarily indicative of the state of the art in Russian robotics. The Kremlin might want its combat ‘bots to be sufficiently autonomous as to require very little human direction. The Marker trials are “by no means the final determinant of where Russian combat autonomy is at the moment”, - Bendett said.
Novye Izvestia found a video on the YouTube channel of the Advanced Research Foundation, which demonstrates the operation of the Marker experimental platform.
The description says: “The evolution of modern ground-based military robotic systems (RTCs) is moving towards increasing the ability to perform tasks offline, with a gradual decrease in operator involvement in the management of RTCs. To increase the level of autonomy of ground-based RTKs, the development of a number of key technologies, which together determine the conceptual image of the promising RTCs. Therefore, the development of robotics technologies and bringing them up to the level of readiness, which allows using the created technologies on promising autonomous RTCs in real conditions, is relevant. For more details about the project, click on the link on the ARF website.