Today, National Defense Magazine notes that the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the major trade group for a whole host of robotics equipment and the Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), will be hosting a major trade show in Washington, DC next week.
The trade show is coinciding with what the magazine calls a “PR offensive” to defend the image of the robotics industry. The industry apparently is worried that the American public views them solely as the makers of killer drones, rather than other robots:
But the widespread use of UAVs in airstrikes also created a PR problem for the drone industry: Its products were no longer just just seen as cool novelties, but as “killer drones.” UAV and ground robot manufacturers are trying to push back on that negative stereotype. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which is gearing up for the industry’s biggest trade show next week in Washington, D.C., hosted a news conference at the National Press Club Aug. 10 to talk about the warm and fuzzy side of robotic machines. “While many headlines have been devoted to the ‘killer drones’ and battlefield robots, these same platforms have many other uses,” said an AUVSI press release. “They can extend the reach of first responders, scientists and aid agencies while keeping people out of harm’s way.”
While it’s true that many of the companies represented by the AUVSI do make robotic devices intended for civilian and non-military use, a look at the exposition it will be hosting next week finds a heavy military emphasis. The largest booths on the trade show floor go not to purely science-related firms but rather major defense contractors like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. The primary manufacturer of the Predator drones the U.S. uses, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, is also well-represented.
Part of the PR campaign at the upcoming show is “RoboTour,” a kid-friendly section of the convention center that will be reserved to “introduce future generations of scientists and engineers to the exciting world of unmanned systems.” Included among the sponsors of this section is Northrop Grumman, Oshkosh Defense, and DRS Defense Solutions and American Dynamic Flight Systems, both of which make Unmanned Aerial Systems used by the U.S. military.
In drone-related news, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism today released an interactive timeline of drone strikes in Pakistan. Among the findings of the researchers is that there have been 168 reported deaths of children in U.S. drones strikes in northwest Pakistan.