Quadrupedal robots gained momentum in recent times as robotics companies successfully built low-cost robots which are productive. Now, the testing is being done with a gun attached to them. The guns are custom made for the variety of robotic arms by small-arms specialists Sword International, equipped by the US firm Ghost Robotics.
The guns have 30x optical zoom, for targeting in the dark there is a thermal camera and has an effective range of 1,200 meters. There are no details about whether the companies are looking to sell these robots equipped with guns. Even if they aren’t, it seems like they may if the testing process is successful. The marketing copy on Sword’s website says, “The SWORD Defense Systems SPUR is the future of unmanned weapon systems, and that future is now.”
Earlier this week, the Association of the United States Army 2021 annual conference was the first to see the machine. The conference was said to be a “landpower exposition and professional development forum” when it was held in Washington on 11-13 October.
The other unclear aspect is the partnership details between Sword and Ghost. It is already known that the Ghost Quadrupedal robots are being tested by the US military. The 325th Security Forces Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida were the first units to use the quadrupedal robots last year. Their regular operations used the robots to patrol the base perimeter. Where the Quadrupedal navigate Swampy areas that “aren’t desirable for human beings and vehicles.”
The need for quadrupedal robots
The Quadrupedal robots are effectively able to carry many operations like carrying payloads, providing remote video and mapping, being used as a mobile cell tower, etc. It could be used in dangerous situations like defusing a bomb or detecting chemical, biological, radiological, or other nuclear matter. However, the robots themselves being a dangerous weapon is another aspect.
Boston Dynamics is another robot manufacturer that made quadrupedal robots. But they have a strict policy stating that they are against used their robots as weapons. Depending on the manufacturer, the applications on how they are using seem to vary. Many companies have already been selling uncrewed gun platforms places on tank treads or wheels.
Regardless of whether all the companies are working on it or not, in the end, it pins down on one aspect about when these machines will start firing at humans. It isn’t something new, experts have been warning of the “killer robots” all along. The official US policy doesn’t prohibit companies from developing or deploying autonomous weapon systems. Many groups are campaigning to ban such systems, yet development in these areas seems unavoidable.