The company behind the only armed robots in Iraq is rolling out a new model of gun-toting machine, built from the start for combat. DANGER ROOM has exclusive pictures and footage.
But even now, safety concerns (among other reasons) have kept those machines from firing a shot in combat. But Foster-Miller is already rolling a new model of armed robot — one that’s comes with additional extra, built-in precautions, and has been designed from the beginning to fight.
MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System) features new software controls, which allow the robot’s driver to select fire and no-fire zones. The idea is keep the robots from accidentally shooting a flesh-and-blood American. A mechanical range fan also keeps MAARS’ gun pointed away from friendly positions.
The robot is also equipped with a GPS transmitter, so it can be seen on — and tap into — the American battlefield mapping programs, just like tanks and Humvees. These "Blue Force Trackers" have been credited with dramatically reducing friendly-fire incidents during the Iraq war. MAARS comes with an extra fail-safe, which won’t allow it to fire directly at its own control unit.
Nor does the robot always have to carry a gun. A mechanical arm can be swapped "in a couple of minutes" for the weapon, according to MARRS program manager Charles Dean, a retired Army Lt. Colonel. Which means the robot could be used for "inspecting IEDs, opening doors, even dragging casualties."
The tracks can also be removed, and changed out for wheels; better for urban operations, perhaps. Combined with a lower center of gravity, Dean believes the MAARS will be about 50% faster than its predecessors, which rumbled over streets at 5 miles per hour.
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