The Four-Legged Robot Is Equipped With a ‘Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle’ Pod
A robot dog design armed with a 6.5 mm Creedmoor sniper rifle capable of precisely hitting targets from 3,940 feet away has been unveiled at the US Army trade show.
The ‘Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle’ (SPUR) is the brainchild of Philadelphia-based Ghost Robotics and arms manufacturer SWORD International of Sparks, Nevada.
Placed on top of one of Ghost Robotics’ existing ‘quadrupedal unmanned ground vehicle’ designs, SPUR can be remotely instructed to load, unload and fire its rifle.
The firms have yet to reveal the exact configuration of the weapon, nor how much ammunition the machine is capable of carrying or its reload rate.
However, tests have shown that the 6.5mm rounds used in the Creedmoor rifle offer an increase in range over the 7.62x51mm cartridges currently used by US forces.
It is also presently unclear how much each robot unit and SPUR attachment will cost to purchase and maintain.
The arming of robots with SPUR — while arguably an inevitable development not that distinct from other unmanned ground weapons — is still likely to stir up controversy.
In contrast, for example, competitor Boston Dynamics — known for their oft-dancing robot dog ‘Spot’ — have committed to never arming any of their bots with weapons.
And the prospect of weaponised robot dogs turning on and killings humans was brought to discomforting life in the 2017 Black Mirror episode ‘Metalhead’.
A robot dog design armed with a 6.5 mm Creedmoor sniper rifle (pictured) capable of precisely hitting targets from 3,940 feet away has been unveiled at the US Army trade show
‘Due to its highly capable sensors, the SPUR can operate in a magnitude of conditions, both day and night,’ the developers announced at the army trade show.
‘The SWORD Defense Systems SPUR is the future of unmanned weapons system — and that future is now,’ they added.
An advantage to giving an armed robot a four-footed design like SPUR’s comes from the stability this quadrupedal arrangement offers.
‘When our robots move around and you shove them, these forces are computed at 2,000 calculations per second per leg,’ Ghost Robotics CEO and founder Jiren Parikh told The War Zone last year.
Mr Parikh went on to explain that his firm are working to ensure that their robots are able to continue to function even if some of their onboard sensors fail.
‘We’re adjusting it to make it like a mammal. Our robot, when you see it climbing stairs or walking or running around, we turn off all the sensors,” he said.
‘It’s just feeling. It’s completely blind. The reason we do that is because if a warfighter or a mining company — if anybody is using our robot — [it] had better operate 99.99% of the time.’
In a similar vein, the SPUR module appears to be equipped with its own sighting system on top to allow operators to aim at the rifle’s chosen target.
The ‘Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle’ (SPUR, pictured) is the brainchild of Philadelphia-based Ghost Robotics and arms manufacturer SWORD International of Sparks, Nevada
The US Air Force has reportedly expressed an interest in the possibility of operating robot dogs remotely from central command facilities by means of interfaces similar in design to commercial virtual reality headsets.
Officers are looking to use the machines for perimeter security, scouting and urban warfare operations — as well as opening up access to spaces that might be too small, tight or dangerous for a human soldier to safely navigate into.
‘These dogs will be an extra set of eyes and ears while computing large amounts of data at strategic locations throughout Tyndall Air Force Base,’ Air Force Major Jordan Criss said in a statement last year after a test involving the robots.
He added: ‘They will be a huge enhancement for our defenders and allow flexibility in the posting and response of our personnel.’
Ghost Robotics is no stranger to collaboration looking to explore potential defence and security applications of their bots — and is engaged in partnerships with firms including defence contractor Honeywell and the ARES Security Corporation
Reaction on Twitter to the unveiling of the SPUR-equipped robots was mixed — but with more concern than endorsement.
‘Black Mirror is a cautionary series, not a blueprint for the future,’ wrote Kate Paul Dillon on the social media platform.
Other users said that the robot would make a good ‘doggo’ for the murderous robots from the Terminator sci-fi franchise.
The Association of the United States Army’s 2021 Annual Meeting and Exposition was held at the Washington Convention Center, Washington DC, from October 11–13.