At a meeting of the Association of the United States Army Ghost Robotics, a robot on four legs and a rifle was displayed
The US military might be buying a dog-like, quadruped robot equipped with a sniper gun.
Ghost Robotics of Philadelphia developed the robot. It is part of their Vision series of legged robots. For perimeter security purposes at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, the US Air Force is currently testing an armless version of these robots.
Ghost Robotics presented the armed version of the robot at the Association of the United States Army's annual meeting in Washington DC. The robot comes equipped with a Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle pod by Sword Defense with a powerful, 6.5mm sniper gun. It has night and day cameras, and a range of approximately 1200m.
Ghost Robotics is a company that has been creating quadruped robots for over a decade. They have previously demonstrated versions with additional features such as arms for bomb disposal or a disruptor which can disable bombs.
Robots can be highly mobile and cross terrain that is not easily accessible by tracked and wheeled machines. They also have high levels of autonomy and are capable of operating with great independence. The perimeter patrol robots can follow a pre-determined route and deviate where necessary to avoid obstacles. They also alert a human operator if they come across something unexpected, such as an intruder.
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Ghost Robotics CEO Jiren Parikh, however, is quick to dismiss any notions that the sniper rifle could be an autonomous weapon system.
Parikh says that the weapon is fully controlled remotely. The weapon is controlled by a human operator, but there is no AI or autonomy.
Customers chose the robot because it could move on difficult terrain. This allowed it to be in a firing position for sniper shots. It can also be used outdoors or indoors, such as to climb stairs. The operator can remain hidden from the flames while the fire is burning.
Quadruped robots are becoming increasingly disconcerting because they can move inside buildings and other human spaces. After protests by critics, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, the New York Police Department ended its Digidog program for an unarmed quadruped robot in April. Similar robot-dog police use in Honolulu has also been controversial.
Parikh points out that there were many other uncrewed tracked or wheeled vehicles without weapons at the show. However, his vehicle has been given attention. Parikh suggests that the robot's legged appearance triggers an emotional response because it looks like an animal and because there have been decades of science fiction movies about deadly robots.
The Pentagon policy states that robotic weapons must be controlled by a human operator. The technology to allow small drones to autonomously select and attack targets has been developed, and could have been used in Libya.