November 1, 2007  

In this issue

People love robots, and AFJ editors are no exception. So when we started on this issue’s cover package, the temptation to create our own virtual battle bot was irresistible. AFJ artist Chris Broz did an amazing job designing our 3-D robot cover image from scratch.

Leading us on this path of robot discovery was Maj. David Bigelow’s examination of the ethics of using robots on the battlefield through a fictional window. David has been studying for his master’s in business under a combined detachment with the University of Texas and Lockheed Martin. It was at Lockheed that he saw first-hand the advances in battlefield robot technology that inspired him to write this month’s lead article. Lockheed has built a 20-acre robot test facility near Dallas for its 3.5-ton MULE engineering evaluation unit to roam and prove its stuff, clambering over Jersey barriers on its own terms. The facility’s perimeter fence, a Lockheed manager assured me, is sufficiently high that the mighty MULE, capable of 65 kilometers-per-hour speeds, can’t escape. But the MULE is about to get “vision,” so it will see, if not yet explore, the outside world.

IRobot’s PackBot has endeared itself to many a soldier in Afghanistan and Iraq. As president of the company’s Government and Industrial Robots Division and a former military commander, Joe Dyer writes as a robot expert who can also put those capabilities in a battlefield context.

Maj. Danny Davis has seen battle bots in front-line action during his deployment to Afghanistan. Now an operations officer at TRADOC’s Future Combat Systems lab at Fort Bliss, Texas, he gets to see the future technologies under development and how they will shape the way soldiers do business.

This trio of experts provides an intriguing range of perspectives on a fascinating subject.