The US Army could incorporate armed robots in the field within the next five years, according to a report by Computerworld. A recent demonstration at Fort Benning by four robotics companies showed mechanized infantry eliminating targets from 150 meters away. Military strategists were satisfied with the demonstration. As Lt. Col. Willie Smith put it: "We were pleased with what we saw here. The technology is getting to be where it needs to be."
The four robots were manufactured by Northrop Grumman, HDT Robotics, iRobot and QinetiQ. One of the robots, the CaMEL (Carry-all Mechanized Equipment Landrover), can be mounted with a grenade launcher, a machine gun and a bevy of missiles. Running on tank-like tracks, it can be deployed with the aid of human soldiers and sent into open spaces for reconnaissance and target elimination. It is operated remotely by a human soldier and guided by GPS.
The remote controls for the robotic prototypes could take the form of a gaming controller similar to one you'd find on a home gaming console. Alternatively it could be operated by a laptop or tablet mounted to a human controller's vest, folding outward from the vest when it's needed and displaying the same thing the robot sees. Some robots can take out targets from a distance of 3.5 kilometers.
But don't go screaming Cylon just yet. Robotic infantry that operate and fire without human permission is still a ways off. "I think the ability for a robot to acquire and assess a target and ID it as a threat and fire is probably five or 10 years out," Maneuver Battle Lab Senior project officer Tollie Strode Jr. said. "However, even if that capability exists, we'll have a human in the process of deciding what to do."