Military Robotics

A robot sniper is not subject to arm shake, fatigue, or any of the other human factors that throw off a rifleman’s aim, making each shot more accurate and less likely to hit someone other than the enemy. Pilotless drones are more likely to hit the target with better accuracy than bombs being dropped from a plane at 30,000 feet (Gyrnir). In the Army 53 percent of their casualties come with first contact with the enemy. Having a robot scouting ahead or flying above sending back pictures of the ground below to troops would reduce the casualties (Fogarty).

Military robots can serve in place of human beings in explosive ordinance disposal (EOD), surveillance, and other dangerous situations. For example, when an EOD team was hunting for improvised explosive devices (IED), by the time the soldier was close enough to see the telltale wires from the bomb, it was too late. The IED erupted in a wave of flames. A soldier would have to be as far as 50 yards away to escape death and as far as half-mile away to escape injury from bomb fragments. Even if a person is not hit the pressure from the blast by itself can break bones.

This soldier had been right on top of the bomb. As the flames and debris cleared, the rest of the team advanced. They found little remaining of their teammate. They loaded the remains onto a helicopter, which took them back to the team’s base near Baghdad International Airport. That night the team’s commander did his duty and wrote home about the incident. He apologized for his inability to change what had happened. He wrote, “at least when a robot dies, you don’t have to write a letter to its mother” (Singer).

The “Soldier” was a 42-pound robot called a PackBot. The PackBot mounts all sorts of cameras and sensors, as well as an arm with four joints that extends over two meters to allow it to examine suspicious objects on EOD missions. If it weren’t for this robot to scout ahead the rest of the EOD team wouldn’t have survive the explosion (Singer). In conclusion, robotic technology is changing the future of warfare. Robots are used to save and protect, not harm innocent lives. The idea of robots replacing humans in the military is very unlikely.

In order for a robot to do something it needs a human to program it and tell it what to do (Singer). Fully autonomous robots that may harm the wrong people presents ethical, legal, and command challenges determining who was responsible for the robot’s actions (the officer that put the robot into action and instructed it on its target or the company that manufactured the hardware) raises philosophical problems. Therefore, until these problems are resolved fully autonomous killing robots are unlikely (Gyrnir).