the implication here is that these autonomous spelunking units are perhaps seen as a new type of ordnance—that is, they are intelligent bombs that don't explode so much as explore. They are artillery and surveillance rolled into one. Imagine a bomb that doesn't destroy a building: instead, it drops into that building and proceeds to map every room and hallway.
Although Manaugh focuses mostly on the military aspects of this technology, imagine how wonderful it would be for peaceful use. One of the most dangerous and least appealing jobs on the planet is that of the human miner, working underground in dangerous and unpleasant conditions.
Could we soon be able to make robots that are capable of doing this work for us, and free the human race from the terrors of cave-ins, explosions, mine floods, and all the other terrible disasters that all-too-frequently plague the mining industry?