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Ghost Robotics putting guns on robot dogs now

Quadrupedal robots are one of the most intriguing robotics developments in recent years.

They’re small, nimble, and can navigate environments that wheeled machines can’t. It was only a matter of time before someone put a gun on one.

The image above depicts a quadrupedal robot, a Ghost Robotics Vision 60, that has been outfitted with a custom gun by small-arms specialists Sword International.

The gun (dubbed the SPUR or “special purpose unmanned rifle”) appears to be designed to be mounted on a variety of robotic platforms.

It has a 30x optical zoom, a thermal camera for targeting in the dark, and a 1,200-meter effective range.

It’s unclear whether Sword International or Ghost Robotics are currently selling this gun/robot combination. But, if they aren’t already, it appears they will be soon.

“The SWORD Defense Systems SPUR is the future of unmanned weapon systems, and that future is now,” says the marketing copy on Sword’s website.

The machine was unveiled for the first time earlier this week at the Association of the United States Army’s 2021 annual conference. The conference bills itself as a “landpower exposition and professional development forum,” and it will take place in Washington, DC, from October 11 to 13.

The details of Ghost and Sword’s collaboration are unknown, but Ghost’s quadrupedal robots are already being tested by the US military.

Ghost Robotics putting guns on robot dogs now
Image: Ghost Robotics

The 325th Security Forces Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida was the first unit in the Department of Defense to use quadrupedal robots on a regular basis last year.

According to an interview with Ghost Robotics CEO Jiren Parikh, it uses them to patrol the base’s perimeter, navigating swampy areas that “aren’t desirable for human beings and vehicles.”

Although reconnaissance is one of the most obvious applications for robot dogs, manufacturers are gradually experimenting with different payloads.

The machines could be used as mobile cell towers, to defuse bombs, or to detect chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear matter, in addition to providing remote video and mapping (otherwise known as CBRN).

Boston Dynamics, the most well-known manufacturer of quadrupedal robots and the creators of Spot, has a strict anti-weaponization policy.

Other manufacturers, it appears, are less picky. After all, plenty of companies already sell unmanned gun platforms with tank treads or wheels, so adding the same basic kit to legged machines shouldn’t be too difficult.

The more pressing question is how these robots will be deployed in the future, and what level of supervision will be required when they begin firing lethal rounds at humans.

Experts have been warning for some time about the slow rise in the use of “killer robots” (officially known as lethal autonomous weapon systems, or LAWS), and official US policy does not prohibit their development or deployment.

Many groups are campaigning for a preemptive ban on such systems, but it appears that companies will continue to build what is possible in the meantime. And that includes arming robot dogs.

Image: Sword International

The Verge News

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