New York: Wary of suffering casualties, the US Army is adding new sophisticated robots to its ranks to handle a broader range of tasks, from picking off Taliban snipers to serving as indefatigable night sentries.
While smart machines are already very much a part of modern warfare, the US Army and its contractors are eager to add more, New York Times reported.
The machines, viewed at a "Robotics Rodeo" last month at the Army`s training school at Fort Benning, Georgia, not only protect soldiers, but also are never distracted, using an
unblinking digital eye that automatically detects even the smallest motion. Nor do they ever panic under fire.
"One of the great arguments for armed robots is they can fire second," said Joseph W. Dyer, a former vice admiral and the chief operating officer of iRobot, which makes robots that clear explosives.
When a robot looks around a battlefield, he said, the remote technician who is seeing through its eyes can take time to assess a scene without firing in haste at an innocent
Yet the idea that robots on wheels or legs, with sensors and guns, might someday replace or supplement human soldiers is still a source of extreme controversy. Because robots can
stage attacks with little immediate risk to the people who operate them, opponents say that robot warriors lower the barriers to warfare, potentially making nations more trigger-
happy and leading to a new technological arms race.
"Wars will be started very easily and with minimal costs" as automation increases, predicted Wendell Wallach, a scholar at the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics and chairman of its technology and ethics study group.
Civilians will be at greater risk, people in Wallach`s camp argue, because of the challenges in distinguishing between fighters and innocent bystanders. It only becomes more difficult when a device is remotely operated.
This problem has already arisen with Predator aircraft, which find their targets with the aid of soldiers on the ground but are operated from the US. Because civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan have died as a result of collateral damage or mistaken identities, Predators have generated global opposition and prompted accusations of war crimes.
Automation has proved vital in the wars America is fighting. In the air in Iraq and Afghanistan, unmanned aircraft with names like Predator, Reaper, Raven and Global
Hawk have kept countless soldiers from flying sorties.
Moreover, the military now routinely uses more than 6,000 tele-operated robots to search vehicles at checkpoints as well as to disarm one of the enemies` most effective weapons: the improvised explosive device.
Military technologists assert that tele-operated, semi-autonomous and autonomous robots are the best way to protect the lives of American troops. The US-led international forces
in Iraq and Afghanistan has reportedly lost over 6,000 personnel since 2001.