Robot Combat – Prepare Your Robot!

Robot Combat – Prepare Your Robot!

People love fighting. Plenty of combat sports have been around for a long time and people have enjoyed and still enjoy, watching other people beat one another until one loses. Whether boxing, kickboxing, martial arts, ultimate fighting or sumo, people have a preference. 

Given that technology has allowed us to make interesting things, robot combat became a reality. When had this phenomenon started? Is it active today? What are the rules? Here is everything you need to know about robot combat.

A Brief History of Robot Combat

Alex Healing, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take note that robot combat means remote-controlled vehicles, and not actual robots which are autonomous and have their own, independent programming (although that has been attempted multiple times).

In 1987, the Denver Mad Scientists Society organized the first Critter Crunch competition, where people put their robots one against another. After that, the next battle took place in 1991, called Robot Battles, which was also organized by the Denver Mad Scientists Society. After that, the wars sort of took off, Robot Wars being turned into a TV show in 1997. 

Robot Combat – How Does it Work?

As with everything in sports, robot combat also has categories. They are, fairyweight, antweight, beetleweight, mantisweight, hobbyweight, dogeweight, featherweight, lightweight, middleweight, heavyweight and alternate heavyweight. Some of the names come from memes, obviously, but are actual categories. Depending on which organization sanctions the tournament, some categories will be omitted. There is a difference between the UK Fighting Robots Association and the US SPARC. The weight ranges from 0.15 kilograms to 110 kilograms, in both cases.

Charles Haynes, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Rules of Combat

There are some rules which must be obeyed, such as illegal weaponry. Now, this varies between the FRA and SPARC. Universally banned weapons are high voltage discharge weapons, liquid weapons, radio jamming weapons, explosives, visual obstruction and lasers above a single milliwatt. 

The end goal of combat is to immobilize the opponent or get them out of the arena during a set time limit. This can happen by flipping them or placing them in a position where they cannot move (pinning and holding is often illegal). If nobody ends up immobilized, judges decide which robot performed better. 

Various Designs and Ideas

Kellylockhart at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Robots have varying designs in how they look, move and attack.

Flippers are the most common robots, which are designed like ramps, with a goal of flipping the enemy.

Propulsion-wise, anything from wheels to tank treads, magnetic wheels, rolling and hopping.

Weapons can be anything from hammers, axes, to CO2 or hydraulic flippers.

Spinners which have spinning wheels are very common when it comes to weapons.

Rammers are also a common sight, using speed and inertia to ram the opponent out of the arena.

Popular Events

BattleBots is a popular American TV show about robots. It has had 9 seasons and the status of season 10 is currently unknown. RoboMaster is an annual tournament held in China. It has been around since 2015. The UK has its own set of tournaments, and the only one currently active (mostly due to the 2020 situation) is Robodojo.  

Robot combat has been around since the late 80s. It is still around and people are building more complex and interesting machines. If you want to watch some robot combat, there are videos online. Waiting for new tournaments is never fun, but waiting is what sports fans are used to.