In the near future could robots that exist today be slightly modified to go off road or in water. In the show called "Battlebots" I imagine, what if it was bot vs Solder. The show is a must watch to understand that these robots are deadly on the battle field.

Scenario: Each soldier is trained to operate each bot in place of a soldier on the battlefield deployed for every job possible on the front line to take or defend a city. Like soldiers each bot would have a specialized job and would be diverse in operation and look. We have drones now but these would be designed for 1 on 1 combat as well to entirely replace humans from harm. Other than fighting bot against bot how would robots be combated that could not be overcome by design?

Different types of wireless controls could be used from GPS to laser or visually from a satellite to prevent jamming, cost less then a soldier, can run on gas and be deployed using other robotic transportation, weather is little or no factor, rebuild is easier than rebuilding humans, and if a bot goes down controls can be switched to a new one. The bot will still need to maintained by a person.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Cumehtar, Renan, Cyn, L.Dutch Jun 12 at 3:20

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    $\begingroup$ What do you mean by "robots"? Drones are robots, and they're already in use. Autonomous or remote-controlled wheeled vehicles, armed and unarmed, are on the battlefield. Autonomous submarines have been fielded. Are these not sufficiently robotic? $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Jun 12 at 1:11
  • $\begingroup$ @jdunlop Yes, but they are everywhere but at what point cannot replace a human on the field? $\endgroup$ – Muze the good Troll. Jun 12 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ Too many questions (I count 4 question marks). And all of them are opinion based. Someone already gave a look into it what-if.xkcd.com/5 $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jun 12 at 3:20
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch is this better? $\endgroup$ – Muze the good Troll. Jun 13 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ Could today's robots be "slightly modified" to become front-line combat equipment? No. Could robots be designed to become front-line combat equipment? Sure. A fair number of books have been written about that (pretty much every book since E.M. Forster's The Machine Stops). But I frankly don't understand your question. By definition, anything and everything can be "overcome by design." What problem with your world's rules are you trying to resolve? $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 17 at 5:12


Technology tends towards mechanization. The history of warfare may as well be synonymous with the history of technology (certain aspects, anyway), so it's fair to say that as some point, wars will be fought between operators hundreds of miles away from the battlefield that the war is taking place. Here's the deal, though.

The robots won't be androids. (I mean, technically some people would stop calling them robots at that point, but clearly not you if you're using BattleBots as an example of a robot.)

There are numerous problems with androids, and even if you manage to solve them all, you get the real kicker of the problem - androids just aren't efficient. Humans are great multitaskers, a natural jack-of-all-trades. But we aren't specialized to hunt and kill. So these bots aren't going to be android soldier a la Terminators. They also aren't going to be giant humanoids either (square-cube law). Instead, they'll be tanks, drones, basically all the vehicles we have today, just have their insides replaced with electronic operators rather than flesh and blood. That's what you'd be looking at. And they'd have guns and missiles, and more guns and more missiles. Because in war, any problem which you can't solve with overwhelming firepower just means you haven't used enough overwhelming firepower.

The problem (amongst many) is that you're losing specification. Humans can be instructed to accomplish objectives like hostage rescue, taking strategic targets with minimal engagement, and rallying indigenous populations. Robots can't do that. We'll probably never get a robot with the jack-of-all-trades of a human, but we'll be able to replace large-scale conflicts with robot armies.

Counter-attacking would be interesting. EMPs might seem tempting, but drones can be designed with shielding. Jamming and hacking might work, but if your opponents have better hackers, and program the 'bots to turn into merciless killing drones on innate programming when the command frequency is lost that could backfire. Figuring out design flaws, trying to trick it's ally recognition patterns, or exploiting bad programming would probably work the best. As for say, the US fighting, I'd guess they'd just go with raw firepower, because like I said earlier, any problem you can't solve with overwhelming firepower just means you haven't used enough.

Last point - do not underestimate weather. Seriously. Another thing military history has taught us is that every general who decided to ignore the stuff lost. Badly. You'd need specialized bots in every weather type and pattern.



Robots are great but there are several factors you have to account for that don't occur in shows like Battlebots or in any movies.

Firstly, there is off-road. Off road is doable, you have tanks, giant wheels, legged robots. They can manage off road but don't expect them to be great. Boston Dynamics is probably the closest thing we have but if you watch their videos you will notice that the robots usually operate in flat ground slowly on uneven terrain. There have been great strides in this field and you can see the progression of the robots in their videos but its not perfect yet.

Now you throw in water. Water is hard. It gets into moving parts, messes with electronics and makes it a pain in the ass to cool moving parts that also need to be controlled electronically. Its very expensive to take a land robot and make it waterproof.

Now the biggest issue you are going to face is communication. How do you send commands to a robot. You might think, well the operator just sends signals via radio, or Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc. That won't work. The enemy military would easily hijack the signal because they are closer (and hence have a stronger signal that will override yours) or they will just broadcast a wide range and jam your communications. You can see this in action with current Drone technology. Even Drones which don't receive any commands from a remote operator have been hijacked before, and it was simply done by overwriting the GPS coordinates. So you are operating your robots in the battlefield and then BAM. You lose all connection. Worse yet, all your drones turn around and start slaughtering your own troops.

So your bots might quickly take a city or two, but your enemy isn't stupid. They will find out how you manage to communicate with your bots. They will block the signal, and they will reverse the technology. Your basically handing them the robots on a platter.

If you want to add in some counterpoints yourself, I've made a small list of other issues:

  • Communication Lag: there is a minor delay when remotely controlling an object from large distances and this can mean the difference between getting off the first shot and losing bots
  • Expense: Robots are expensive. Robotic arms cost in the range of $50,000 + and this isn't factoring in the development time of the remote control system, the operator, equipping weapons and the expensive vision and feedback sensors required to control the robot remotely. Even worse, if you want to mass produce you are going to need completely new factories and warehouses to produce all the parts. Your talking about robots costing several millions and you still have to pay and train a soldier in the back
  • Power supply: Robots need a power supply to operate. The longer they operate for, the power supply, the more weight it needs to carry and the stronger the motors need to be. It doesn't scale well if you want long term performance. You also need places for it to charge or have its power supply replaced.
  • Weather: Weather conditions like rain, snow, storms, fog are going to interfere with the operations of the robot. Blocking the communication signal, disrupting the cameras and sensory equipment.
  • Mirrors and Glass: God... those are like almost impossible to reliably detect via sensors
  • Repairs: More moving parts means its easier to break down. Your robots need to be serviced and repaired so even if you control them remotely, you are going to need a repair center close by to keep your fleet or robots operating. This is true for any mechanical unit in the military. Your robots require even more, because robots are just going to have more moving parts and sensors that could break. They will also be more easily damaged since extra weight means more powerful and bulkier engines (and you might want to head in the direction of tanks once you get too large)
  • Drones: You already have drones. What advantage can your robot offer. It won't travel faster or as far, it's not going to be easier to maintain. It is not currently in production like drones are. You can't carry massive bombs or rockets on it. It's easier to hit. You probably only have the advantage of being able to operate in cloudy conditions.
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding power supply, Battlebots in particular are often optimised to have a power supply that only lasts 3-5 minutes, as that's the length of a typical battle. So on top of all those downsides, you won't get very long out of it before the batteries run dry and you'll have to run in and manually change them while presumably being shot at by every enemy soldier in the vicinity. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Jun 12 at 11:04

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