They’re putting guns on robot dogs now

It’s not clear if this gun-equipped quadrupedal robot is for sale, but it’s only a matter of time.
Image: Sword International

Quadrupedal robots are one of the most interesting developments in robotics in recent years. They’re small, nimble, and able to traverse environments that frustrate wheeled machines. So, of course, it was only a matter of time until someone put a gun on one.

The image above shows a quadrupedal robot — a Vision 60 unit built by US firm Ghost Robotics — that’s been equipped with a custom gun by small-arms specialists Sword International. It seems the gun itself (dubbed the SPUR or “special purpose unmanned rifle”) is designed to be fitted onto a variety of robotic platforms. It has a 30x optical zoom, thermal camera for targeting in the dark, and an effective range of 1,200 meters.

What’s not clear is whether or not Sword International or Ghost Robotics are currently selling this combination of gun and robot. But if they’re not, it seems they will be soon. As the marketing copy on Sword’s website boasts: “The SWORD Defense Systems SPUR is the future of unmanned weapon systems, and that future is now.”

The robot base is built by Ghost Robotics, and carries a specially-designed gun built by Sword International.
Image: Sword International

The machine was shown off for the first time at the Association of the United States Army’s 2021 annual conference earlier this week. The conferences bills itself as a “landpower exposition and professional development forum” held in Washington DC, October 11-13.

Details about the partnership between Ghost and Sword are unclear, but Ghost’s quadrupedal robots are already being tested by the US military. Last year, the 325th Security Forces Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida became the first unit in the Department of Defense to use quadrupedal robots in regular operations. It uses them to patrol the base’s perimeter, navigating swampy areas that “aren’t desirable for human beings and vehicles,” according to an interview with Ghost Robotics CEO Jiren Parikh.

Although reconnaissance is one of the most obvious use-cases for robot dogs, manufacturers are slowly experimenting with other payloads. As well as providing remote video and mapping, the machines could be used as mobile cell towers, to defuse bombs, or to detect chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear matter (otherwise known as CBRN).

And, of course, they can become weapons themselves.

Unlike the better-known Boston Dynamics, Ghost Robotics seems eager to find military customers for its quadrupedal machines.
Image: Ghost Robotics

Boston Dynamics, the best-known manufacturer of quadrupedal robots and makers of Spot, has a strict policy agains weaponizing its machines. Other manufacturers, it seems, aren’t so picky. After all, plenty of companies already sell uncrewed gun platforms that use tank treads or wheels, so adding the same basic kit to legged machines isn’t much of a stretch.

The bigger question is how these robots will be deployed in the future and what level of oversight will be required when they start firing lethal rounds at humans.

For a while now, experts have been warning about the slow rise in the use of “killer robots” (known as lethal autonomous weapon systems, or LAWS, in official jargon), and official US policy does not prohibit their development or deployment. Many groups are campaigning for a preemptive ban on such systems, but, in the meantime, it seems companies will continue to build what is possible. And that means putting guns on robot dogs.

Comments

Drone strikes are so 2000s

This is the ideal application. Remotely controlled bots will save so many soldier’s lives. The futility of attacking mechanical bots will be a further hinderance.
But the arms race is ON. This tech will soon become commodity and will start showing up in the wrong hands (drug cartels, terror cells, etc.).

I know it was already broken, but this will break the concept of war even further.
Its been said that war has to be horrible. So horrible that it is only used in extreme circumstances, and that peace will almost always be the better option.

If a rich country like the USA mechanizes the military to this degree, then war wont cost the country anything besides money. Rich countries can duke it out, without any loss of life on their sides. And in poor counties (the ones that are fought over, and the ones the USA typically invades), you have mechanical soldiers slaughtering flesh and blood human beings.

Nah. This thing is the weapons engineer joke of 2021 like the LS3 was in 2007. Things that kill this platform – Sand, Water, Battery, Sticky shit, Pointy shit, Wire, Line of sight, bad operator, too hot, too cold, too humid, missed maintenance, dynamic terrain. Take your pick. We don’t even have to assume human adversaries actively trying to thwart this.

When Boston Dynamics shows a system that solves those issues, I will start getting worried. Not worried about some knock-off hicks putting some weepenz to make money of DOD contracts.

Flesh and blood soldiers win out because they are cheaper, more efficient and maintain themselves. Our children are still going to be recruited and sent to fight in other people’s wars.

Wow. That is a good point. Mud and weather will quickly halt these machines.
This looks like a decent beginning though, with a long long road ahead.

You are assuming a fantasy game appropriation use of such platforms. These platforms will be used in conjunction to soldiers. Just like soldiers carry equipment these platforms will be used to safely handle the adversary.

Any weather, other difficult will be therefore a part of the doctrine developed for such platforms. As for mechanical failures, I would wager given the limited time windows they would operate in it shouldn;t be much of a problem.

Not to mention the article mentioned the robots are already patrolling swamp land, so, um, sounds like they have worked out or are working out any issues with water damage and wet terrain.

I often wish the money, resources, and brain power our military harnesses were actually used for the betterment of humanity and not periodically murdering civilians or killing US allies, but there is no doubt that the military has significant technical prowess and that the smart thumbs (thumb a$$es?) on these forums who seem to think the military didn’t think of running a basic tech test on these bots are highly qualified national guard infantry.

Don’t forget Tom Selleck.

This won’t get the recs it deserves.

If a full scale war between to rich countries breaks out, you honestly think one will surrender simply because it lost more expensive war toys then the other? No, hell no. In the end, the threat of ACTUAL elimination by the victor is what wins ANY war. No matter who fights, blood will need to be spilled to get total victory

So why did America go running home from Afghanistan with its tail between its legs? There was no threat of them being ‘eliminated’ by the Taliban.

Because nobody (including americans) fucking wants us there

When has that ever mattered?

If you weren’t being bled dry by the occupation no amount of not being welcome or it being unpopular at home would have made any difference. And the reality is it was only unpopular at home because of the cost in lives and materiel.

I’m not particularly educated on the matter – so grain of salt and all that.

The way I see it, the primary problem for the USA is that the rich and powerful absolutely want to invade other countries, ensure that any possible threats to their power or access to resources are eliminated. And those people have huge influence over our government.

But there are (and always have been) plenty of us here in the States that believe the US needs to own up to their empire-building and actively dismantle it. It just sucks because we are still a minority here, and only recently a notable contingent in one political party. Anti-colonial Americans do exist, but most American don’t even recognize we have an empire to begin with.

I think more of a silent majority than a minority, but the single issue voters are easily taken for a ride by the billionaire con artists in the vocal minority so those billionaire con artists get to make the decisions about who we kill, how often, and when. Also, if your single issue is gun ownership rights or "law and order" or just straight up white supremacy, it’s pretty easy to just extend that to killing non-whites somewhere else, even if that would otherwise not be something you would necessarily back.

Because that dog won’t hunt. And FJB.

US had conquered Afghanistan, sent Taliban packing away quickly. US didn’t loose militarily, US vs Taliban/al-Qaeda in terms of lives lost is not even a comparisons.

Unlike conquering powers of earlier times, US for all it’s faults isn’t a maniacal power. It didn’t go to war, it went on an empire building spree on parachuting liberal democracy in places which culturally are completely detached.

is US/American public wanted to ‘finish’ Afghanistan war, there are enough nukes and delivery systems to accomplish it before you can bake a pie.

This robo platform to kill we be like drones, detach human element from conflict for rich countries and make it more steely for adversaries to think about antagonizing them.

They aren’t particularly in the right hands now. Making war more remote and the costs more abstract for a nation that has a penchant for involving itself lengthy conflicts in every corner of the globe, that feels like it should flex its influence globally, isn’t a good thing.

Just look at the current drone program. The civilian death rate to target ratio is unprecedented. It’s gotten us involved in countless more conflicts than we would’ve been otherwise.

I don’t know that this would do any good in anyone’s hands, but I definitely don’t believe it’s in the right hands with the US given its history.

The civilian death rate to target ratio is unprecedented.

I’m going to need a source for that. I doubt WW2 or the Sino Japanese wars have a lower civilian/target death rate than drone attacks. Afaik the rate is extremely low for drones, but I’m not an expert in that field and might very well be mistaken.

Speaking of wrong hands, eventually police departments will have versions of these.

These need to be outlawed for domestic use in the United States immediately. Other countries should probably follow suit.

Are you kidding? If the Republican National Committee had had 500 of these puppies, January 6 would have been a slam dunk, and the People’s Republic of Trump would be occupying all of DC.

2nd Amendment! 2nd Amendment! 2nd Amendment!

[ I wish this were /s]

It’s like every dystopian movie cliché is coming true before our eyes.

You spelled "self fulfilling prophecy" wrong.

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