The UGV is the land-based counterpart to unmanned aerial vehicles and remotely operated underwater vehicles. Unmanned robotics are being actively developed for both civilian and military use to perform a variety of dull, dirty, and dangerous activities.
A working remote controlled car was reported in the October 1921 issue of RCA's World Wide Wireless magazine. The car was unmanned and controlled wirelessly via radio; it was thought the technology could someday be adapted to tanks. In the 1930s, the USSR developed Teletanks, a machine gun-armed tank remotely controlled by radio from another tank. These were used in the Winter War (1939-1940 ) against Finland and at the start of the Eastern Front after Germany invaded the USSR in 1941. During World War II, the British developed a radio control version of their Matilda II infantry tank in 1941. Known as "Black Prince", it would have been used for drawing the fire of concealed anti-tank guns, or for demolition missions. Due to the costs of converting the transmission system of the tank to Wilson type gearboxes, an order for 60 tanks was cancelled.
From 1942, the Germans used the Goliath tracked mine for remote demolition work. The Goliath was a small tracked vehicle carrying 60 kg of explosive charge directed through a control cable. Their inspiration was a miniature French tracked vehicle found after France was defeated in 1940. The combination of cost, low speed, reliance on a cable for control, and poor protection against weapons meant it was not considered a success.
The first major mobile robot development effort named Shakey was created during the 1960s as a research study for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Shakey was a wheeled platform that had a TV camera, sensors, and a computer to help guide its navigational tasks of picking up wooden blocks and placing them in certain areas based on commands. DARPA subsequently developed a series of autonomous and semi-autonomous ground robots, often in conjunction with the U.S. Army. As part of the Strategic Computing Initiative, DARPA demonstrated the Autonomous Land Vehicle, the first UGV that could navigate completely autonomously on and off roads at useful speeds.
Russia and China are expeditiously becoming a commander in Unmanned Ground Vehicle development. Russia has a wide range of plenarily armed war robots. China is looking not only at circumventing American dominance in military robotics, but also consolidating the regional advantage. A series of hot territorial disputes between China and its neighbors stimulates military investments in Tokyo, Seoul and Singapore.