The U.S. Army unveiled the first robot dog armed with a sniper rifle in Washington, DC this week during an annual exhibition. The quadruped is currently being tested at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.

Developed by Ghost Robotics, the robot carries an unmanned, kill-capable rifle designed by defense systems company SWORD International, reported the trade magazine New Scientist.

Although the modern system is a breakthrough in the U.S. military industry, it has sparked some controversy that an unmanned machine has the ability to kill people.

The SWORD International website explains that the rifle was specifically designed to deliver precision fire from unmanned platforms such as the Ghost Robotics Vision-60 quadcopter.

Regarding the rifle, the company reported that the same is designed to be fired remotely by a person and that, in principle, it would not be the robot who would be firing the eventual shots.

It was also reported that the rifle, thanks to a modern camera system, has the capacity to shoot with extreme precision at a distance of 1200 meters both day and night and in unfavorable weather conditions.

SWORD said it is the future of unmanned weapons systems.

Haley Britzky, a U.S. Army reporter who covered the military presentation, posted on her Twitter account a short video where several of these specimens can be seen walking among the crowd:

“People see these robots walking and think this is a deployable capability, but there is still a lot of development, testing and evaluation to be done,” said Johanna Lewis, program manager for the Special Programs Division, in a statement detailing the initiative.

While what is most impressive at first glance is the agility and actual animal-like walking action of these robots, Lewis says the most advanced thing about these devices is the advanced technology they possess to patrol and provide information to the law enforcement agencies that handle them.

Pennsylvania-based Ghost Robotics has been building this series of robots identified as Q-UGVs (quadrupedal unmanned ground vehicles) since 2015 and only now made their first unveiling.

With the general public concerned about a robot possessing a lethal rifle, those involved reported that the robot is handled by snipers from the Department of Homeland Security and Special Operations. 

For his part, Ghost Robotics CEO Jiren Parikh told New Scientist on Thursday that the weapon is “fully controlled by a remote operator,” as required by Pentagon policy regarding robotic weapons.

“There is a human controlling the weapon, there is no autonomy or AI,” he assured. 

In April 2021, the NYPD had to abandon the use of “Digidog,” a robot dog with similar characteristics used for patrolling, after receiving strong criticism. It should be noted that Digidog was not an armed robot. 

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