GROUND DRONES FALLING APART

During this week's Technet International 2003 military-industrial schmooze-a-thon, executives at the Boeing booth repeatedly ran an animated forecast of the American military's future: packs of robot tanks, teaming up to assault a Middle Eastern foe.Cool concept. But don't count on this prediction coming true any time soon, National Defense magazine warns.Today, even the most basic unmanned ground vehicles (or "UGVs") are plagued with problems. The so-called "Small UGV," a 30-pound drone being designed for chemical and biological detection, has an 80 percent failure rate. In recent trials, batteries had to be swapped out every hour-and-a-half. Cold and rain stopped the drones in their tracks. And any kind of vibrations proved deadly.The military environment is harsher than the desktop environment," the Small UGV's military master, Dave Kinchel, observes.Indeed.

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