US war robots in Iraq turned on American troops

April 12, 2008

[T]here had been chilling incidents in which the SWORDS combat bot had swivelled round and apparently attempted to train its 5.56mm M249 light machine-gun on its human comrades.

Last August, I linked to an article discussing the deployment of the SWORDS bots to Iraq, which, in light of these events, now reads even creepier than before. From that piece:

[Though declared ready for duty in 2004,] concerns about safety kept the robots from being sent [to the] battlefield. The machines had a tendency to spin out of control from time to time.

[...]

So the radio-controlled robots were retooled, for greater safety. [...] A three-part arming process — with both physical and electronic safeties — is required before firing. Most importantly, the machines now come with kill switches, in case there's any odd behavior.

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