Technologies that detect and neutralise threats can reduce the risks that frontline soldiers face, but also have potential to protect humanitarian and rescue personnel.
The US Army is developing one such technology under its Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC). The Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) focuses on affordable, reduced-weight, protective systems for ground vehicles. MAPS will warn soldiers of an imminent threat and offer alternatives for protection.
While acting as a protective overseer, MAPS adds an additional layer of security to soldiers in conflict zones. Two examples of MAPS prototypes are the Iron Fist and the Ripsaw (pictured below).
Photo courtesy www.ripsawtank.com
The Iron Fist, developed by General Dynamics, is a vehicle attachment that detects incoming fire, such as a rocket-propelled grenade. With an electronic countermeasure and physical interceptor, Iron Fist then neutralises the threat faster than soldiers can react.
Another example of MAPS, the Ripsaw, resembles a miniaturised tank with a mounted firearm. The vehicle can be unmanned and outfitted with visual and surveillance sensors. While the controller is situated within an armoured vehicle, Ripsaw can engage and neutralise potential threats.
Inside view of the Ripsaw (photo courtesy www.ripsawtank.com)
During a crisis, MAPS technology would offer a valuable level of protection to supply and personnel transportation. Care for and extraction of victims could occur faster as the vehicles transporting them are protected by MAPS during conflict. Furthermore, retrofitting MAPS for stationary locations, such as medical camps, would protect providers and caregivers as they work within conflict zones.
The benefits of MAPS to the preservation of life is indubitable, but controversy arises from the use of artificial intelligence. It is somewhat concerning that humans will not be in control of life and death scenarios as MAPS responds to threats. Though speculation should not deny valuable protection to soldiers and crisis personnel, careful supervision of MAPS technology design insofar as threat detection is concerned, would be pivotal in ensuring the safety of all parties.