Remote-controlled armoured vehicles that are completely unmanned could save lives on the frontline.
That’s the Army's message as it reveals the futuristic tech being used in a special experiment to find equipment that can be used to wage war in the future.
It insists that soldiers will not be replaced but there are a number of scenarios where sending in "robots first" could make a huge difference.
For the last month, the Army has been working with industry experts as part of Exercise Autonomous Warrior.
That’s a wrap! A great four-weeks supporting the Autonomous Warrior Experimentation 2018 led by the @BritishArmy - demonstrating our #HAWK concept demonstrator at #Salisbury Plain. Here are our favourite photos from the experimentation… #AWE18 #AutonomousWarriorLand @AWE18_AWL pic.twitter.com/CJqdApMzmh— General Dynamics UK (@gduknews) December 12, 2018
The Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has described it as 'the biggest military robot exercise in British history'.
Autonomous Warrior opened its doors on Salisbury Plain Training Area to a range of companies who competed to have their products tested by troops.
200 cross-service personnel have been experimenting with and testing out the technology and equipment offered by the companies who were selected.
One of the systems to be used enabled remote-control technology to be installed to an Army Warrior vehicle.
The idea is that the vehicle could enter hostile environments completely unmanned, drawing out enemy fire and exposing their positions.
The Army has worked with a range of companies who could be chosen to eventually bring the technology to the frontline, but the timescale on what might be chosen and when is unclear.
Lionel Nierop, from Digital Concepts Engineering, fitted their Marionette remote control system to the Warrior armoured vehicle. He told Forces News:
“It’s a toolkit. The driver can see what the cameras are seeing.
"He has a joystick and can drive it as he would normally. He just happens to be 10 kilometres away.”
Sergeant Robert Warenycia of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers is one of the soldiers who tested out the remote-controlled Warrior. He said:
“I’m very keen to see it out there, especially for keeping personnel out of harms reach in dangerous situations.”
Over 75 industry partners have offered their concepts to the forces in recent months, only a select number made it to the demonstrations in Wiltshire.
Lieutenant Colonel Nick Serle, Exercise Director of Autonomous Warrior, says that robots have been used by the Army for many years, but "not on this scale for infantry tactics":
“We can reduce risk to our soldiers consistently on a battlefield in a warfighting operation and also a counter-insurgency operation.”
He also detailed the potentially life-saving benefits of new technology in rescue scenarios: “Robot First would avoid us putting soldiers forward when we don’t need to.
"We could have trackers on an individual that measures their heart-rate, if they have stopped breathing or are under high-duress then we can send a platform forward in order to rescue them.
"If they can crawl on to it, we can get them back.
"That would save four people going into the fight to try to drag that casualty out.”
The designs on show have all been tested for use in surveillance, targeting, re-supply and situational awareness and engagement.
Lieutenant Colonel Serle said that this experiment is not the beginning of the end for human soldiers on the frontline:
“Soldiers will always be used on the frontline because it’s our interaction with human beings that is part of warfare and conflict resolution.
"It’s a case of putting humans into the environment when it’s safe to do so.
"We want to create an unfair battle, where we can succeed without putting undue risk to our soldiers.”