The army will deploy new unmanned ground vehicles that can carry remote-controled weapons and sensors for surveillance missions to patrol the Gazan border this year.The Tomcar-based Guardium, produced by Israeli defense company G-NIUS Autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicles, has spent the past six years patrolling the Gaza border, carrying out reconnaissance missions. This year, it will be replaced by a UGV called Border Patroller, which will soon enter operations.The new UGV, also produced by G-NIUS (a joint venture company established by Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems), is based on the Ford F-350 Super Duty Truck, which the army has converted into a remote-controled vehicle.Maj. Lior Tarbelsi, head of the Robotics Division in the Ground Forces Command’s Weapons Department, said Border Patroller can be armed with a remote-controled weapon, reconnaissance means, and additional components that cannot be fitted on the Guardium.“Its communications systems will be improved [compared to those of the Guardium], and the control aspect will be different.This is an upgrade from everything that exists in the current system,” he said.UGVs and robots will play increasingly dominant roles on the battlefield.Defense industries are investing many resources to develop platforms for the Ground Forces Command, which is playing catch up with the air force in the unmanned world.In the coming years, the Ground Forces Command plans to complete the development of a robot that will serve infantry and combat engineering units engaged in tunnel warfare.The robot will patrol underground and gather information for units on the surface, allowing soldiers to avoid entering terrorist tunnels, which are often booby-trapped death traps, where enemy gunmen more familiar with the surroundings can lie in wait. The poor visibility and air quality in the tunnels create additional challenges for soldiers.“A robot can be risked, and it doesn’t have to deal with a lack of lighting. It doesn’t have to breathe, and it won’t have to worry about getting shot,” said Tarbelsi.The robots will map out tunnels and buildings, enabling combat soldiers to gain an accurate picture of a battle arena before entering it.The Ground Forces Command and the G-NIUS company are also developing a robot called Loyal Partner, which will be armed with remote-controled weapons and be able to maneuver in terrain, serving as an advance guard for combat soldiers. It could be deployed into areas filled with hidden explosives and shooting ambushes.According to the IDF’s plans, in the future, robots and UGVs will be able to advance autonomously after receiving instructions from operators. The platforms will be designed to respond to data they gather in the field, and to developments in their environment.They will be programmed to calculate the best routes and bypass obstacles.The IDF has stopped short of planning for robots that can open fire autonomously, saying that in the coming decade, a human operator will always be in the decision-making loop when it comes to firepower.