US Army
Humvees, regularly used by ground forces, could soon become autonomousDELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images

US Army's Maneuver Center of Excellence demonstrated manned and unmanned vehicles working together to terminate an enemy target in an exercise at Fort Benning, Georgia.

While aerial support and the working of drones alongside pilots is common for defensive units in the air, it is not so on the ground because of the varying terrain as well as the number of threats that are on the ground, according to the DefenceNews website.

The exercise demonstrated manned-unmanned teaming, or MUM-T, where vehicles that work autonomously as well as those controlled remotely by operators – who are not in the field – assist in the passage of troops in convoys.

At the event, Don Sando, the Deputy to the Commanding General for Combat Development at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, said that, "We think you can pair unmanned aerial systems, unmanned ground systems with the ground force to extend the reach of that formation and extend the time over which they can be effective."

It has been reported that the technology which is required to drive robots and autonomous weapons into manoeuvre formations already exists. But as of now, human intervention is necessary to develop and envision such strategies and tactics.

"The next 10 to 15 years will help us figure out how we want to embed robotics and autonomous systems into the formation," said Robert Sadowski, robotics chief with the Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.

In the last two years, the Army's Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy and its Robotics and Autonomous Systems Strategy have undertaken and published most of the research in this field.

Sadowsky pointed out that the US Army is not the only one in the world to build and test autonomous weapons. He mentioned how Russia has started to develop such manned-unmanned weapons and that they are even testing it in combat right now in Syria.

He added that the US can stay ahead by implementing these technologies in existing formations and that is why, according to Sadowsky, such demonstrations are a necessity.

The exercise reportedly involved two scenarios that made use of ground vehicles that are remotely controlled, automated, as well as manned.

The remotely-controlled Humvee, which acted as the wingman or support, led the charge equipped with a Long Range Advance Scout Surveillance System. It went up ahead of the road, looking for threats, while a manned Humvee followed it.

At the same time, an M113 also followed and deployed a "marsupial" Packbot that went down a ramp from behind the military vehicle and checked out the area. The wingman then spotted a threat and fired at it, clearing the path for the Humvee while the Packbot went back into the carrier.

The next such demonstration will be at the Joint Warfighting Assessment in Germany in March 2018, according to the report.