Wednesday, June 01, 2005

U.S. Marine Gladiator Robot in Combat by 2007

The battle bot advances on an enemy position, its knobby tires kicking up dust in a distant war zone. A flick of the joystick sends it rumbling down a side street. Blam! Blam! Blam! Another hostile dispatched.

What sounds like videogame combat will soon be the reality of warfare. By 2007, the US Marine Corps expects to deploy Gladiator, a brawny, six-wheeled all-terrain vehicle developed by the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute and United Defense. Powered by a gas engine, the 1-ton drone will roll into the Fallujahs of the future, operated by a soldier wielding a PS2-style controller from a safe distance and communicating with the bot via radio control. "It's designed for dangerous duty," says Carnegie Mellon's Dimitrios Apostolopoulos. "It will replace a marine during the first wave of an attack."

Gladiator has more optional equipment than a showroom Hummer: M249 squad automatic weapon, M240G medium machine gun, 9-mm Uzi, thermal imaging equipment, GPS and laser rangefinders, day and night cameras, acoustic and chemical detectors, light vehicle obscuration smoke system. Fully loaded, expect a sticker price of $400,000. Haptic feedback controller sold separately.


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