Building robots is a skill, and one that Russia’s Ministry of Defense wants more Russians to have. To that end, the Russian newspaper Izvestia reported Aug. 3 that the Ministry of Defense had completed work on a federal educational standard for “Robotics for Military and Special Purposes,” teaching students at both civilian and military universities how to design new robots. This includes, at the military institutions, robots designed for combat.
“Russian Ministry of Defense already has a center for unmanned aerial vehicle training ― it’s the 924th Center, outside of Moscow ― and it’s been operating for about five years at this point and is dedicated to teaching soldiers and officers the operation of various UAVs,” says Samuel Bendett, a research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses. “These academic programs will involve all manner of unmanned military systems, unlike the 924th center, which only deals with UAVs. According to the development standards described here, after several years military students will be able to graduate as engineers, unlike those military students in the 924th center which get an operator certificate after a few months.”
Learning the technical skills first-hand, before entering the military, will enable the cadets who become officers to better explain to industry what, exactly, they need out of their unmanned machines. Russia is already running student competitions for military robot design, so injecting the universities and military institutions with more designers and more support for robotics could be a virtuous cycle, training some of the future officer corps in how to handle and design robots while at the same time reaping the benefits of new robot designs.
“Russians are thinking that by better educating their future unmanned systems operators, they can build a more productive and eventually more successful relationship with the rising unmanned defense sector,” says Bendett.
The shape of robot enable war is only just being determined, and remotely controlled or autonomous machines are likely to have a much greater place on the battlefields of tomorrow than they do today. Building an industrial base and an educated workforce to design, troubleshoot, and field those robots is one way to future-proof a military, and it seems Russia is ready to invest in that work.
Kelsey Atherton blogs about military technology for C4ISRNET, Fifth Domain, Defense News, and Military Times. He previously wrote for Popular Science, and also created, solicited, and edited content for a group blog on political science fiction and international security.