The Pentagon awarded $12.2 million in grants today to develop robots able to perform full scalpel-and-stitch surgeries on wounded soldiers in battlefield conditions.
The unmanned “trauma pod” would be linked wirelessly to army command without giving away its position to the enemy, and has to be nimble enough to perform under fire.
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.
Some of the initial technology is already used in hospitals, and the goal of the first project aims only to demonstrate that a surgeon, operating the robot remotely, can stitch together two blood vessels in a pig.
The first “telesurgery” system, developed in the 1980s, gave way to the da Vinci Surgical System, too bulky and dependent on too many humans to be used in battle, but currently used in about 300 hospitals worldwide to remove cancerous prostates, repair faulty heart valves and for other procedures.