When it comes to robots on the battlefield, the U.S.
military has a virtual skunkworks of contraptions roaming the ground and air.
In December, DailyTech
reported on the iRobot
PackBot which can detect enemy AK-47 gunfire via its Robot Enhanced
Detection Outpost with Lasers (REDOWL) system. Just a few months ago, iRobot showed off its
SUGV Early (Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle) which weighs in at 30 pounds --
this is compared to 44 pounds for the iRobot PackBot.
The U.S. Army is stepping up things in the battlefield robot
arena dramatically with its new Special Weapons Observation Remote
reconnaissance Direct action System (SWORDS). Three
SWORDS robots were deployed in Iraq and their capabilities put human
soldiers out of harm’s way.
Each robot can carry up to three M249 machines guns which
are controlled by a soldier through a remote terminal. This means that every
shot fired will have to be approved by a human -- the robot will not start
firing without prior authorization.
As of today, no shots have been fired by
the robots on the battlefield.
"Anytime you utilize technology to take a U.S. service
member out of harm’s way, it is worth every penny," said John Saitta of
Smart Business Advisory and Consulting. "These armed robots can be used as
a force multiplier to augment an already significant force in the battle
The Army is pleased with the three SWORDS robots that it now
has, but has requested an additional 80 for combat use. Unfortunately for the
Army, additional funding has not been approved for the purchase.
"As [soldiers] use them and like them, I’ve heard
positive feedback, they want 20 more immediately. It’s a shame we can’t get
them to them," said SWORDS program manager Michael Zecca.