Forget target practice made famous by TV police dramas. Robots are being used for the new generation of live training.
New systems provide a challenging, more realistic target as well as instant feedback to the shooter.
On display at International Defence Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi on Monday was Slovakia’s Trainshot robotics system, a bulletproof moving platform attached to a smartphone-connected target, so shooters can practise their aim and see immediate scoring on an app.
The small company is at Idex for the first time, marketing its systems to regional militaries and recreational shooting ranges.
Simulating realistic combat environments has been a mainstay of military training for centuries, but technology increasingly provides more realistic scenarios and real-time feedback on soldiers’ performance in the field.
Matthew Cochran, chairman of the Defence Services Marketing Council in the UAE, isn’t surprised this edition of Idex has attracted smaller companies with pluckier solutions, which may be adopted faster as the pandemic accelerates technology integration.
With other major shows, such as the 2021 Paris Air Show, cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns, Idex "has become the de facto place because now there is pent-up demand", he told The National.
“You train hard to fight easy and any new training tools are always welcome,” he said.
Trainshot’s robots weigh 25kg and stand 1.2 metres tall. They cruise on bulletproof foam wheels that can carry the robot up to a kilometre away. The system is connected via Bluetooth and can move at 7.2 kph on a 12-hour battery charge.
The robot can be programmed from the app to move in a set training sequence or at random. The system is meant for live ammunition from .45 and 9mm handguns. The device pairs with a smartphone or tablet and the app helps users improve, with live scoreboards for hobbyists or military units to compete with anyone anywhere.
The company sells its starter target kit for about €250 ($300), which can be mounted on the moving platform, which starts at €10,000, a representative told The National.
Paper targets are designed for hobbyists, recommended for handguns and shorter distances. The company also sells ballistic rubber plates and torsos to make the experience more realistic for military training purposes.
Trainshot is not the only company to develop robots for target practice.
Australian company Marathon Targets, which has offices in Abu Dhabi, created the T40 smart target robot to operate on various types of terrain for live ammunition target practice and has delivered its systems to Nato member countries.
Since 2017, the US Marines have been running a study to test the theory that shooting something that moves unpredictably like a human is more effective for training than a fixed target.
So far the theory has proven true – and Marines’ shooting accuracy vastly improves in a single day of this type of training.
“A Marine went anywhere from a 20-30 per cent hit rate on a moving target to 80-90 per cent,” Chief Warrant Officer 5 Joshua Smith told Military.com late last year.
“Imagine, if I can do reps and sets like that all the time, how I could increase lethality at the individual level.”