With UAVs being common throughout the world, why aren’t there many unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) being used for military applications yet?


With UAVs being common throughout the world, why aren’t there many unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) being used for military applications yet?

In: 14

It’s easier to navigate when there are no obstacles, so the ocean and the air is simply easier for unmanned craft to manage. With modern developments in ML that’s changing, but it’s a fundamentally harder problem being *in* the terrain than over or under it.

Simply put the technology isnt there yet for all terrain fighting vehicles. the variable types landscape, signal fade/blocking and other logistical issues haven’t been solved for practical use yet.

UAV’s are fast, high up which means better signal.

I am not the expert on robotics but it appears (from the little I have done), that it is actually simpler to get a vehicle to fly than to build a small one that navigates the ground well especially in rough terrain.

Humans can climb, navigate rocky and uneven terrain etc and do so fairly quietly. With supplies they can be deployed for days.

A similar robot is bulky, gets stuck easily, is slow and/or noisy and lasts a few hours before running out of fuel. This is not exactly great for many fighting doctrines.

At least an UAV flies fast enough that a few hours allows them to travel significant distances and return.

Just like it has taken drones 50 years from their early military iterations during the vietnam war up to modern armed drones and down to quadrotor drones used in large numbers today.

UGV’ are still in its early stage, they are slow and cumbersome and right now they only work in support roles such as bomb defusal and mine sweeping.
The few combat trials with UGV’s, such as the Russian Ural-9 have been rather bad.

There are however many designs being worked on and companies such as Boston dynamics are quickly making robots more commercially available, which also opens up for military use.

There are a few complications on the ground that you do not have in the air, a clear line of sight. So communication is a lot simpler than something airborne.

It is also more challenging to have autonomous or remote controller control on the ground, the air is kind of empty and there is very little difference when you move around so controlling a drone in the air is simple than on the ground. The ground is quite complex with the ground with different surface materials that might be uneven, rocks, trees, buildings, water features etc.

Autopilots for crewed aircraft are not something new and can be quite simple to be useful compared to a ground vehicle, cruise control to is what is simple on a land vehicle. So you can use existing technology and just move where the pilot inputs the controls over a radio link

In the air weight is a huge factor and the space for a pilot, stuff that keeps them alive will be quite large. On land weight, there is not the same type of weight limitation so you do not have the same advantage.

The result is unmanned aerial vehicles are simpler to make ground-based, the is a clear advantage to removing the crew so they were made first.

On the ground even if you have unmanned vehicles that are automatically controlled or remote controlled you still need humans there. Armored vehicles are quite vulnerable to infantry. There are lots of ways to hide and engage them with anti-tank weapons. The visibility from vehicles is quite limited, especially in terrains like a city, forest, etc where there are lots of places to hide. So even if you can remove the crew you still need to have people there on the ground. There are not vehicles that can replace infantry.

Look at the early Russian armored advances into Ukraine to see the result of vehicles without infantry support. It has been known that they need support since the first usage in WWI.

Even it you look at not combat tasks like driving a supply truck having it remote-controlled increase the cost a lot and just move the driver. If you make it autonomous you can remove the driver. But the driver to more stuff then just drive them. They do maintenance and fix stuff that breaks. They camouflage them when they stop, and they help in loading and unloading them.

If there is a tree on the road the crew can get rid of them. There can be a need to make simple road repairs, using a wich to away if stuck. So even if it do not need a driver there will be many situations a human is required. It will not just be like driving on a nice road like in the civilian world.