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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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James Cameron would be proud
By wordsworm on 8/5/2007 10:34:13 AM , Rating: 2
So these are the fledgling steps that are beginning the age of robotic warfare. It's really just the beginning. I've envisioned squadrons of small AI planes loaded with ounces of plastic explosives flying low in a kamikaze attacks against open enemies.

If these machines are controlled remotely, perhaps it's only a matter of time before the enemy gets its hands on one and learns how to hack them to their own ends.

Well, that's fanciful. But it seems to clearly demonstrate that Cameron's imagination is coming to fruition, without the time travel and happy ending. It's just a matter of time before one man, malevolent or benevolent, controls these machines.

May mankind gain wisdom and a conscience before it's too late.




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