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Zer Netmouse
August 6th, 2007
04:15 pm

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Armed ground robots
remotely-operated ground vehicles (robots) with guns are being deployed in Iraq. How'd you like to face down a robot with an M-249 machine gun? Or a grenade launcher? The program calls them "special weapons observation remote reconnaissance direct action systems" (SWORDS). So far they have not been in a firefight. Yet.

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From:rmeidaking
Date:August 6th, 2007 09:09 pm (UTC)
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Robocop, here we come. How would you like to be pulled over on the freeway by one?
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From:jeffreyab
Date:August 6th, 2007 09:24 pm (UTC)
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BOLOS!

In memory of Keith Laumer.
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From:netmouse
Date:August 6th, 2007 09:33 pm (UTC)
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I'd be impressed. These things are based on the Talon and don't go that fast.
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From:dd_b
Date:August 6th, 2007 09:09 pm (UTC)
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Not sure, I might prefer to face them than humans. At least if I was a "good guy". The operators can afford to take risks not reasonable for people directly present to take, and that extra flexibility *can* be used to reduce risks to non-combatants in the area.
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From:netmouse
Date:August 6th, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)
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nod. the view from a video camera on location, assuming transmission is working, is going to be a lot more effective than a sniper's view from a safe standoff range. The video somewhat incorrectly represents their capabilities, suggesting robots will be able to penetrate buildings in leiu of soldiers - these robots cannot in fact kick in a door like the soldier in the video. Here in Michigan though, SWAT teams are using similar robots for assistance, including penetrating a door before entering premises, with a long lance-like module that can go on the front of the robot and has a camera on it to stick *through* a door for look-ahead.
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From:dd_b
Date:August 6th, 2007 09:47 pm (UTC)
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Sending in a robot to look first is probably a LOT safer for occupants than kicking down the door and sending in the SWAT team; humans have a very strong Second Law implementation (without, of course, the restriction in Asimov's version).
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From:netmouse
Date:August 6th, 2007 09:57 pm (UTC)
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oh, definitely. In general, robots *ought* to increase safety for everyone. But only if they work right, and if their operators understand the limitations of the infostream they will get from them. We're working on systems to help robots to collaborate to fill in information gaps they need to effectively complete ISR missions. The ability to check for gaps in one's own knowledge and make predictions that, when they fail to come through, indicate possible issues caused by the dynamics of the situation (things are not as we expected) is actually kind of tricky to manufacture. Operational robustness issues abound with remotely-controlled observation platforms, much less weaponized ones.

From:speedygeo
Date:August 7th, 2007 06:04 am (UTC)
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Ah, an arena I have some basic experience in. I trained at Fort Benning, GA to be an 11-Bravo, Infantryman. Tools like this will save lives if the personnel using them are trained. I would question how durable the device is under fire, but I would still rather have it take a couple of rounds instead of me even with body armor.

I read some of the ill-informed masses postings on there. I love that they run to the concept of 'we just push a button and send these things out the door'. There is still the human condition. Not sure if that's a blessing or a curse, only time will tell.
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From:rmeidaking
Date:August 7th, 2007 11:22 am (UTC)
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In pondering this overnight, can the robot remove a blanket dropped on its head? A blind robot might be a sitting duck.
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From:netmouse
Date:August 7th, 2007 01:55 pm (UTC)
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So far the robots in use by our military cannot secure themselves. In Iraq there's a small problem with having them stolen for their batteries, so units guard them very carefully.


One of my favorite stories from the Michigan bomb squad was when they sent a domestic unit into a house by a remote control (RF) and an inhabitant took it out of their control by taking a baseball bat to its antenna array. That robot wasn't armed, of course.

Then again, robots tend to have cameras in unexpected places. This robot would not be made blind by "Having a blanket dropped on its head" because it has forward and reverse cameras on the carriage down between the wheels in addition to the cameras on its arm and body or weapons package that are used for self-inspection and targeting. It also might have non-visual sensors that would not be incapacitated by a blanket, and it will be able to do dead-reckoning navigation based on GPS and internal position estimation.

I expect large and midsize robots to eventually have a 360-degree view and the ability to monitor their own input for approaching people. How they will react to possible aggressors is still unknown. IR and radar/sonar are also very useful for those things. I don't know if the SWORD system has those sensors, but ground robots they're using for search and rescue do.
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