Robots May Soon Perform Battlefield Surgery

The Army Times reports that robots may be performing battlefield surgery on wounded soldiers within a decade.

Robots may someday perform battlefield surgery (Army Times – AP)

The Pentagon is awarding $12 million in grants on Monday to develop an unmanned “trauma pod” designed to use robots to perform full scalpel-and-stitch surgeries on wounded soldiers in battlefield conditions.

The researchers who pitched the Defense Department on the idea have prepared a futuristic “concept video” that seems straight out of a teen fantasy game, showing with full color and sound effects the notion that robots in unmanned vehicles can operate on soldiers under enemy fire and then evacuate them. “The main challenge is how can we get high-quality medical care onto the battlefield as close to the action and as close to the soldiers as possible,” said John Bashkin, head of business development at SRI International, a nonprofit laboratory that often handles Defense Department research. “Right now, the resources are pretty limited to what a medic can carry with him.”

SRI researchers caution that the project remains at least a decade away from appearing on any battlefields. Surgeons will need to manipulate the robot in real time, using technology that prevents any delays between their commands and the robot’s actions. The “trauma pod” has to keep connected wirelessly without giving away its position to the enemy, and it has to be nimble and hardy enough to perform under fire.

This would be a huge leap, indeed. We already have variants of this, as anyone who has had laser eye surgery knows. Not only could a trauma pod carry more supplies, but treatment of soldiers wounded on the battlefield could begin without risking getting a medic killed in the process.

FILED UNDER: Health, Military Affairs, Science & Technology
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. kappiy says:

    Let’s concentrate on Bush’s plan to put men on Mars, first.

    Then maybe we should figure out how to get that other “teen fantasy game”–Reagan’s Star Wars–to work.