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Estonia is leading the Western response to Russian ground robots

The small country of Estonia is leading the Western response to Russian ground robots. The tiny country, known among tech enthusiasts for its innovative e-residency program and for hosting NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, last week announced a new initiative to bring ground robots to Europe’s militaries.

“Estonia, a European leader in robotic autonomy turns its attention to the battlefield,” Defense One writes.

According to an Aug. 2 statement from the Estonian Ministry of Defense, the country is working with Finland and Latvia to develop an unmanned ground robot in the hope of creating a “European standard” for future such machines.

According to Defense One, while Estonia is starting to develop unmanned robots for the military, it is already ahead of Moscow—and virtually everyone else—in its development and fielding of highly autonomous commercial robots.

Very much as in the Pentagon’s new networked-warfare concepts, Estonia’s unmanned ground vehicles will share data with aerial drones, other sensors, and human operators. But much of the machines’ steering and operation will be autonomous, according to Estonian officials. “True innovation emerges from the autonomous control system, and integration with sensors and other manned and unmanned platforms, such as UAVs, radars, control points, etc,’” Kusti Salm, the Defence Ministry’s investments director said in the statement.

“Estonia is a surprising pioneer in [unmanned ground vehicle] technology — its unmanned ground vehicles represent the growing segment of logistics, support and close combat designs that will become ubiquitous in near- to midterm combat,” said Sam Bendett, an associate research analyst at CNA and a fellow in Russia studies at the American Foreign Policy Council. “As we have seen with the Syrian trial of the Russian Uran-9 combat UGV, designing and actually using these UGVs in battle are two different things. Still, there is a growing interest in small, unmanned vehicles from a growing number of forces, and Estonia can benefit as a user and an exporter of technology it continues to develop and test.”

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