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  (Source: Gizmodo)
U.S. Army places three gun-toting robots in Iraq

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 space."

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.

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RE: Funny
By stromgald on 8/3/2007 1:22:13 PM , Rating: 2
Correct. It's a separate robot that detects and identifies gunfire. That one's pretty handy I think. Just keep it with the group and when you hear gunfire, you know where the enemy is and where the friendlies are (assuming they're using the correct rifles). It's also pretty useful at pinpointing snipers too, although the sniper has to shoot once for it to work.

To be honest, I'm not sure how useful this robot will be. Other than sneaking up on an entrenched enemy position and taking out some of the enemy, there's not all that much use to this robot. From the looks of it (yes, looks can be deceiving), it's probably more of a liability in a close-range fire fight.

RE: Funny
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 8/3/2007 4:11:17 PM , Rating: 2
To be honest, I'm not sure how useful this robot will be

Sorry dude you must be nuts to think this would not have countless uses. Here's some quick ideas: information gathering in hostile areas, take out dogs or other guard animals, going around a corner before the soldiers - see what there and maybe take it out, the robot will not freak out under fire so you can count on it (while its up and running), deploy in dangerous areas - mine fields, enemy is 300 yards away and you need to cross the field to get to them...send a sword or two; not a soldier. This is from less then a minute of think. A soldier I bet can give 300 ideas in 7 minutes...all saving their lives.

Let me ask you this, if you were the enemy and you saw this come around the corner what would be your first thought? Me it would be, what the F... is that? then I'd be dead. I'm guessing no one will scream, shoot and keep shooting that baby tank till it blows up or smokes so bad, you know it will not work.

RE: Funny
By mindless1 on 8/5/2007 9:14:53 PM , Rating: 2
If I were a soldier and saw it coming my first thought would be, "hand grenade". Second thought would be "darn, if I hadn't blown it up I might've hacked it to be under my control, to drive right up to our enemy without them realizing it was about to attack THEM".

RE: Funny
By JimFear on 8/7/2007 8:33:48 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure the kind of people this would be fighting against don't have the kind of skills or equipment to reverse engineer one of these things in the time it would take for a solider to notice some b*stard has robbed his robot. There are more than likely some kind of tracking device on them, which by the time you've found it they'll already know where you are.

These things are pretty cool though, all we need now is Skynet :P

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