December 1, 2004 12:23 PM PST

Army to deploy robots that shoot

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Next year, the U.S. Army will give robots machine guns, although humans will firmly be in control of them.

The Army next March will begin to deploy Talon robots from Waltham, Mass.-based Foster-Miller. The robots will be mounted with M240 or M249 machine guns, said a Foster-Miller spokesman. The units also can be mounted with a rocket launcher. Defense agencies have been testing an armed version of the Talon since 2003.

Putting guns on robotic vehicles is a natural evolution of the technology, which is being adopted to decrease risks to personnel in the field, the company said. Several robots, including the Talon and the PackBot from iRobot, have been used to conduct surveillance missions such as taking pictures inside the caves of Tora Bora, Afghanistan, during the conflict. Other robots have been mounted with "distruptors," guns that disable bombs and mines.

A robot coming next year from John Deere and iRobot will ferry supplies to and from the front, navigating its travels with little human input.

A robotic vehicle with a machine gun will essentially enable soldiers to stay in a safe area while attacking an enemy.

Unlike most robots, the machine gun-mounted Talon won't be autonomous. People will guide it via radio commands or fiber networks and then have full control over the gun.

"Driving, observing and shooting are always done with a man in the loop," the Foster-Miller spokesman said. "The labs like autonomy, but the users themselves always like to have control."

The Talon weighs about 80 pounds, travels at 5.2 miles per hour and can go about 20 miles on a battery charge. In "wake up" mode, in which the unit conducts surveillance but remains mostly dormant, a battery charge can last about a week. The Talon was used in Bosnia to dispose of grenades and during the cleanup of the World Trade Center.

The company has received more than $65 million in orders from various defense agencies.

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Wow!
If drug dealers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, somehow, get a robot like that... hmm... poor Brazilian cops.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Hellooo, SkyNet!
I don't know about you guys, but *I'm* looking forward to carrying around a pulse rifle, shooting and being shot at by HK's and taking down T-1000's.

It's either that, or become a living battery for the horrible, horrible Machines and their Agents.
Posted by (25 comments )
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Hmm..
I think someones been watching too much television =P

Seriously though no one will ever make weapons of war completely autonomous, like the article said, humans dont like not having complete control over things that can kill them.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Link Flag
Re: Psycho
You need help... Serious help.

-J
Posted by (5 comments )
Link Flag
Cost of war?
As long as AI stays out of the equation its all good I guess.
My biggest problem is if you take too much of the person out of war what is the incentive NOT to go to war. In the past its always been the cost of war in terms of human life and resources. If you take the human life out of the cost it makes it that much easier for a society to say screw it lets go to war. As it stand the American public already is, IMHO, a tad to brazen about sending our men and women off to war.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
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I have to agree
You make a good point and I have to agree with you there. If there is no risk of (insert nation here)'s citizens and military personel being killed, why should they care whether or not they go to war? As long as its not their people dieing anything goes.

And its at that point things have already gone too far.

The mind shudders to think what would come next. Genocide? Sure, why not? World War? Sure, why not?
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Link Flag
Re: Cost o'War
Interesting point, but I seriously doubt that will ever happen. I'm guessing that nuclear war will happen before then. We actually are on the edge of a nuclear/world-war right now. Israel is the main player in this. The arab nations are not happy with Israel's existance, and really want to wipe her out. All of that would go easy, but there's a few problems with that. Israel has the best military in the world (not largest, but best, mind you) and they have the bomb, no, no, not the stink bomb, but the nuclear atomic bomb. They have submarines that can deploy it, the have jets, silos, you name it. Israel has made it clear time and time again that if it feels that their back is against the wall, and they're about to be wiped out - they'll use that nuclear arsenal and destroy everything... But, the arab nations still try, and will try again... And if that happens, I'm afraid, they'll go at Israel with 100% of everything they have... Israel will ultimately wipe everything and everyone out... Unless it is stopped. Maybe God will stop it? Hopefully. That's the only way I see it from bein' stopped... Otherwise, goodbye y'all.
Posted by (5 comments )
Link Flag
Different kind of war
If warfare is going to be fought by machines in the future, why not stop the silly notion of war entirely?

How about resolving disputes by playing a lively game of Risk or Monopoly? The human race will be better for it.
Posted by (40 comments )
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Interestingly unaffective looking tools
Let's see, walking speed, conspicuous, expensive (but that's never been a problem for the military), and carrying a large gun.

It seems they could have made it smaller and faster if they would have created a robot specific armory for these creatures.
Posted by (2 comments )
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Cost of War already cheap
One of the authors hit the nail on the head: Fighting with automatons will certainly reduce the "cost" or war considerably - since human lives will less likely be lost.

However, I would even argue against that conclusion - since MOST POLITICIANS who wage war are NOT affected by their decisions. Their children are never in harms way - it is always another person's future they are calously playing dice with.

This is in no way a reflection of today's administration, but also of the past ones that preceded it - across ALL countries in the world. It is never the politician who has to bury the child they have worked long and hard, and sacrificed much to raise.

Deploying automatons to the battlefield will only increase the cost of war in economic terms - since they are less agile, and probably easier to take down when put up against an organized team of humans.

As for the author who commented on Israel vs the Arab World - it is also sad to say that that obeservation is still too true. The hatred in that region is so intense, that they are blinded by it - and the "cost" of war for them will always be very low.
Posted by Tex Murphy PI (165 comments )
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Body count
It looks to me like a way to seriously lift "collateral damage" and "friendly fire", all at arm's length and with the ability to cleanly blame the technology.
Posted by jg_rat (3 comments )
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