Precursor to the Terminator series? Who’s to say? But what was once saving lives as a bomb disposal robot has been retooled to carry weapons for combat. Pictured is a SWORDS* bot, 3 of which have been deployed to Iraq. None have fired a shot to date, but expect that to change.
They are designed to be used in high-risk situations, like scouting narrow streets infested with snipers before a foot patrol is sent in. Major Saitta, a consultant for the program, nails it when he says:
Anytime you utilize technology to take a U.S. service member out of harm’s way, it is worth every penny.
Although these metal soldiers were ready to go in 2004, they had a tendency to spin out of control from time to time. As this isn’t exactly desirable during a firefight, they were kept at home while work continued. But now, according to Danger Room:
So the radio-controlled robots were retooled, for greater safety. In the past, weak signals would keep the robots from getting orders for as much as eight seconds — a significant lag during combat. Now, the SWORDS won’t act on a command, unless it’s received right away. A three-part arming process — with both physical and electronic safeties — is required before firing. Most importantly, the machines now come with kill switches, in case there’s any odd behavior. “So now we can kill the unit if it goes crazy,” Zecca says.
* special weapons observation remote reconnaissance direct action system