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Korea plans to design 10 robot types, like snakes

May 10,2019
Korea’s arms procurement agency plans to develop a variety of cutting-edge biomimetic robots in the form of animals like butterflies, pigeons, snakes, fish and lobsters designed to fulfill important roles in national defense in the future.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and the Defense Agency for Technology and Quality published a joint report this week titled “A technological roadmap on defensive biomimetic robots” that highlights a blueprint to “change the concept of future defensive warfare,” according to a press release from DAPA.

The roadmap contains a plan to apply base robotics technology developed by private firms to the military field, where they can be repurposed to serve a defensive role. Ten types of biomimetic robots were designated for development in the next 10 to 15 years, which will take the form of animals including land insects, flying insects, birds, snakes and multi-legged creatures, as well as humanoids, amphibious robots and robots that can harvest ocean power.

The United States is currently the leader in the field of biomimetic robotics, but China, Russia and countries in Europe have recently been actively developing their own technology in the field.

In particular, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has recently led innovations in drone and humanoid robotics focusing on technology pertaining to future close-quarters combat by developing energy-efficient robots with the capacity to penetrate buildings, go underground or function in mountainous terrain, the air and under the sea.

Korea showed it possesses competitiveness in base robotics technology after engineers from Kaist - the country’s leading engineering institution - won Darpa’s 2015 Robotics Challenge with DRC-Hubo, an adaptable multifunctional robot. The report concludes that with consistent government investment in drone and robot development, Korea can emerge as a leading innovator in the field within the next decade.

Biomimetic technology, which tries to adapt artificial mechanisms to imitate behavior and phenomena found in the natural world, aggregates a host of key component technologies of the fourth industrial revolution, including artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and miniaturization. The report estimates that the market for biomimetics, including the private sector, will grow to a value of around $1 trillion in a decade, making it a valuable target of investment.

The report will have an impact on Korea’s future national defense planning and its spending on arms development, according to DAPA, and will be distributed to government agencies responsible for defense, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Science and Industry Ministries, as well as various public and private research organizations focusing on defense technologies.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]