Usually people think that military robots belong to science fiction or to the future. There are people that are aware that robots are being used in military nowadays. But there are only a handful of people that know that the history of robotic devices used in military starts as far back as the end of 19th century.
Whether you already knew that or not – read on. I am sure you’ll find something new and exciting about robotics history in military in this article.
radio controlled boat
Everything started at the end of the 19th century, precisely in 1898. That year the famous inventor Nicola Tesla demonstrated one of his inventions. This invention was a radio controlled boat intended for military use. You can see a model of it to the left.
Mr. Tesla offered his invention to US navy in order to produce radio controlled torpedoes. When the navy refused, he offered his invention to the United Kingdom. However, it seems that his invention was just too much to handle for people of that time.
The next prominent step in this field was achieved in 1930-ties in the Soviet Union. The soviets made a remotely controlled tank so called – teletank (телетанк). The tank’s control system was modified and pneumatics, electric relays and radio signals were used to control the tank.
The teletank could be controlled from 500-1500m away depending of weather and other conditions. The idea was following – two tanks formed a combat pair. One tank, codenamed TT, was a radio controlled tank the other was a command center codenamed ТУ.
The crew was located at the ТУ and could remotely control the TT. The teletanks were equipped with DT machine guns, flamethrowers and smoke canisters to provide a smokescreen. An armored bomb that could be dropped to destroy enemy fortifications could be attached too.
The T-18, T-26, T-27 and TT-БТ-7 were developed as teletanks. Only T-26 teletank was used in combat in Winter War though.
Goliath is a name of a mobile landmine used in WWII by the Third Reich’s forces. It was approximately 1,50 m long, 0,85m wide and 0,6 m high. It had two tracks and it was controlled remotely using a wire. The goliath was intended to be blown up at the target. So it was not reusable.
The first version – Sd.Kfz. 302 (Goliath E) had two battery driven 2,5 KW electro motors. The second version – Sd.Kfz.303 or “Goliath V” was equipped with a gasoline engine because it could provide greater range and was cheaper.
The price was one of the reasons why it was not viewed as a great success. Goliath E version cost around 3000 Reichâ€™s Marks and the Goliath V version cost 1000 RM. This was too costly for a single-use weapon. Still, in total 7,564 goliaths were produced.
See this propaganda video:
An article on military robots history would not be finished if I did not tell something about the rise of UAVs. UAV stands for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The UAVs were used for anti-aircraft training as early as 1916. However, the turning point came in 1960s when reconnaissance drones were developed.
Lightning bug was a US reconnaissance drone used in 60s – 70s. Around 3500 Lightning bug missions were flown against different countries. Nowadays there are many UAVs used in military forces around the world. I’ll tell you about those in my article on UAVs.
I hope you got some insight on history of military robots.