Infantry: Robots Allowed to Point, But Not Shoot

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February11, 2007: Several hundred sniper detection systems in Iraq, provide directional information about where the snipers are. Several generations of these systems have showed up over the last three years. The usefulness of these anti-sniper systems has increased as the manufacturers have decreased the number of false alarms, and improved the user interface. These devices have come a long way in the last decade, by virtue of major advances in computing power, sensor quality and software development. The latest improvement is providing nearly instant, and easy to comprehend, location info on the sniper. There are two approaches to this. Boeing has a system that uses a small UAV and a ground based sniper detector to give the commander overhead video showing where the sniper is. Another approach has been developed by iRobot, which makes the most widely used combat robot, the PackBot. This system, called REDOWL (for Robot Enhanced Detection Outpost with Lasers), mounts a 5.5 pound device on a PackBot that contains an infrared (heat sensing) video camera, laser rangefinder and acoustic gunfire detector. When the device is turned on, the camera and laser will point to any gunshot in the area. This makes it a lot easier for nearby troops to take out the sniper. REDOWL can also be mounted on vehicles, or anywhere, for that matter. In tests, REDOWL has been right 94 percent of the time. Some developers suggested equipping REDOWL with a machine-gun in place of the laser. But the U.S. Army isn't ready yet for an armed robot that will fire on its own.

 


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