— This is the script of CNBC's news report for China's CCTV on May 14, Wednesday.
Welcome to the CNBC Business Daily.
Defense companies are finding new revenue... selling an increasing array of simulators as budget cuts force the Pentagon to look for cheaper training.
On the ground, the military will be looking to buy more robots.
Many will be armed… and some to an extent will think for themselves.
As Jane Wells finds out, military men and their machines are set to work even closer.
In 25 years, in defence, it will be less is more. Fewer men, more robots.
[Tim Trainer / VP Defense & Security, iRobot] "I think you'll see many of the high risk missions done by autonomous platforms."
I-robot is most famous for its vroom-ba vacuum, but soliders are marines know it for saving lives by clearing roadside bombs.
[Tim Trainer / VP Defense & Security, iRobot] "This whole arm is a robot in and of itself. You can un-blot this, put it on the back of a truck or something and you would have a robotic arm."
In the future, expect robots to handle more missions, unmanned convoys, firefighting, perimeter security.
[William Hix / Major General, U.S. Army] "I think the technology that they have is better than the Google car."
This robot's called The First Look, it's surrounded by cameras, and they're getting smaller and more durable - this one only weighs 5 pounds and you could throw it. Even if it lands on its top, you can turn it right back over and it'll go back to work.
The army recently held a test for prototype robots shooting weapons; currently, robots need constant supervision. Someday, they may not.
[William Hix / Major General, U.S. Army] "I would like to see the relationship between a soldier and a robot be much like a hunter and his bird dog, where there's a learning relationship between the two members of the team, and that the robot will respond to the soldier's hand and arms signals and his behaviours in the way that hunting dogs do with their masters today, so that you augment the soldier and the soldier is not having to control the robot - he is enabled and supported by the robot. "
[Tim Trainer / VP Defense & Security, iRobot] "And so from facial type expressions or emotional expressions out of the robot are helpful for understanding and communication between the human and the machine object. By the same token, you don't want something the public is afraid of and that will come with trust and reliability."
Not everyone is completely on board. Google recently bought Boston Dynamics, one of the companies which is a major competitor for next-generation defence robots. But Google has chosen reportedly not to take any military funding for those competitions, instead preferring to fund itself.
25 years ago, so-called 'drones' didn't have much of a future.
Not many people in the Pentagon believed very much in them.
But as Jane Wells pointed out...
Now they are a multi-billion dollar business.
On a field in Eastern Oregon, the Scan Eagle takes flight. Over the next quarter century, expect to see more unmanned aircrafts, even in our own airspace.
[Ryan Hartman / Sr. Vice President of Insitu] "There will be more unmanned aircraft in the US military than there are manned aircraft in the military."
In 25 years, UAVs, or unmanned aircraft vehicles, will fly faster, do more, and fly with manned aircraft as a team. Boeing's Insitu is already testing a programme where one person can control multiple drones at once.
[Ryan Hartman / Sr. Vice President of Insitu] "Now that system is designed where one operator can operate up to four aircraft."
The next big step is the U-Class, which can take off and land on aircraft carriers. Northrop Grumman's prototype has already done it. Other competitors include one built inside Lockheed's legendary Skunkworks. Alot is riding on it.
2015 will be a critical year for the Skunkworks. It will be competing for several programmes, including the U-Class programme. It needs some winds to guarantee continued funding.
Lockheed is developing several UAVs like one which can be launched buy a bungee chord, and with defence budgets being cut, it's also looking outside the Pentagon for customers.
"We'll see when we go look at power lines or oil lines, infrastructure."
The Scan Eagle has already been doing that for Quantico-Phillips in Alaska under a restricted license from the FAA. Ryan Hartman believes that in 25 years, these aircraft will fly in US airspace as their reliability is ensured. But they will also become increasingly autonomous in war, though he doubts they will ever be given the ability to make their own decisions on when to kill.
[Ryan Hartman / Sr. Vice President of Insitu] "I think it's a very low probability, I think that there are some things, some decisions humans make that make the Doctrine of War work, and so I think that it's a very low probability."
In Orlando, Florida, I'm Jane Wells, CNBC Business News.
Rather than selling drones in systems to a customer, companies like Insitu actually rent them out and operate them themselves.
In fact, the very drone that were used in Afghanistan; some of them are now being used by Quantico-Phillips in Alaska.
That wraps up this edition of the Business Daily.
I'm Sri Jegarajah, reporting from CNBC's Asian headquarters
VIRTUAL REALITY PKG
Playing war is getting alot more like the real thing. The military is increasingly relying on simulators for training.
"The cost of simulation is about 1/10th of what the cost for a live fly training is."
For example, half of all training on the brand-new F 35 at Eglan airforce base is being done with simuators. No programme has ever had that much virtual training and most believe the ratio of virtual to live will go up even higher.
Simulators are even being used to teach maintenence.
"I'm pretty confident that my ten-year old could probably come in here and remove and replace a tyre after going through this kind of system."
To also save money, for the first time they've created mock-ups of all three versions of the aircraft, so guys can practice loading and unloading weapons without actually having to take the jets off the flight line.
Over the next quarter century, simulators will become more portable, probably 3D, and combine virtual reality with, well, reality - to save money on live training.
"So what we're working on is - how do you put a pilot into an aircraft in the air and perhaps his wingman is in a simulator on the ground, operayting virtually - but the pilot can't tell the difference; and then how do you have an instructor creating constructive threats, enemy aircrafts that they can put up in the air that'll appear on the pilot's sensors, just as if they were up there in the air with them - and he doesn't know the difference?"
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