Boston Dynamics, the company most commonly associated with robot dogs, prohibits the weaponization of its Spot devices. That's not the case for all robot dog manufacturers, however. One of them, Ghost Robotics, showed off a version of its Q-UGV device that many will have been dreading. It's a robot dog with a gun attached to it.
Ghost Robotics has made robot dogs for the military, and it displayed this deadly model at the Association of the United States Army’s 2021 annual conference in Washington DC this week. A company called Sword International built the "special purpose unmanned rifle" (or SPUR) module. According to The Verge, it has a thermal camera for nighttime operation, an effective range of 1.2km (just under three quarters of a mile) and a 30x optical zoom.
Latest lethality 6.5 #creedmoor sniper payload from @SWORDINT. Check out the latest partner payloads @AUSAorg Wash DC. Keeping US and allied #sof #warfighter equipped with the latest innovations. @USSOCOM #defense #defence #NationalSecurity #drone #robotics pic.twitter.com/Dvk6OvL3Bu— Ghost Robotics (@Ghost_Robotics) October 11, 2021
"Due to its highly capable sensors the SPUR can operate in a magnitude of conditions, both day and night," a blurb on Sword's website reads. "The Sword Defense Systems SPUR is the future of unmanned weapon systems, and that future is now."
It's unclear how autonomous a SPUR-equipped Q-UGV will be in the field, as Popular Science notes. It remains to be seen whether a human operator will guide the robot to an otherwise hard-to-reach position and manually aim and take shots (which seems more likely), or if the robot will handle entirely things by itself. Either way, it's an unsettling prospect, and that's before we get to the possibility of enemy hackers taking control of these machines.
As if a robot dog with a gun attached wasn't dystopian enough, Ghost Robotics tweeted about a Q-UGV with a different kind of payload: a Lockheed Martin drone and a Digital Force Technologies recon sensor. Sniper robot dogs. Flying robot spy dogs. The future's looking just peachy, isn't it?
Check it out... robot dog w/ wings... New payload with @LockheedMartin Indago #drone and Digital Force Technologies recon sensor for a broad range of #warfighter capabilities @ausaorg #ausa2021. #defense #defence #qugv #specialforces pic.twitter.com/AxuNs3r8PI— Ghost Robotics (@Ghost_Robotics) October 13, 2021