War would be a lot safer, the Army says, if only more of it were fought by robots.
And while smart machines are already very much a part of modern warfare, the Army and its contractors are eager to add more. New robots -- none of them particularly human-looking -- are being designed to handle a broader range of tasks, from picking off snipers to serving as indefatigable night sentries.
In a mock city here used by Army Rangers for urban combat training, a 15-inch robot with a video camera scuttles around a bomb factory on a spying mission. Overhead an almost silent drone aircraft with a four-foot wingspan transmits images of the buildings below. Onto the scene rolls a sinister-looking vehicle on tank treads, about the size of a riding lawn mower, equipped with a machine gun and a grenade launcher.
Three backpack-clad technicians, standing out of the line of fire, operate the three robots with wireless video-game-style controllers. One swivels the video camera on the armed robot until it spots a sniper on a rooftop. The machine gun pirouettes, points and fires in two rapid bursts. Had the bullets been real, the target would have been destroyed. War machines: Recruiting robots for combat