It took three years to complete the testing phase of the SWORD robots (“Special Weapons Observation remote Reconnaissance Direct action System”) and declare them “combat ready”. The moment finally came in early August 2007, when the SWORD robots were utilized by the U.S. in battlefields of Iraq. Up until that moment, the Iraqi war zone had hosted a variety of military robots, but most of them performed only surveillance and bomb disposal missions. Equipped with a license to kill and a M249 machine gun, the newcomer was quite different.
Now, just a couple of months later, the manufacturer Foster-Miller, is introducing the MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System). Packing a powerful M240B Medium Machine Gun, the system is at once more lethal and safer than before. Thanks to the redesigned software, the human controller now has the option to define ‘fire’ and ‘no fire’ zones onto the battlefield map. The robot, which is equipped with a GPS transmitter and connected to the same network as the troops, receives this information in real time and can apply it immediately in the field. Moreover, due to a built-in mechanical range finder, the robot is prevented from mistakenly targeting allied military posts or its own control unit.
The MAARS is a tremendously versatile robot. Its tracks can be easily switched to wheels and its gun can be replaced with a mechanical IED-inspecting arm, in order to perform different missions as needed in the field.
In the past, TFOT covered the Israeli-made urban VIPER robot. Apart from being capable of carrying out regular missions, such as surveillance and reconnaissance tasks, the VIPER robot can also carry a mini-Uzi or a grenade launcher for more offensive roles. Other interesting ground robots covered by TFOT include the Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (BEAR), which is designed for carrying wounded soldiers out of harms’ way; the BigDog four-legged robotic mule capable of carrying loads across different terrains; and finally, the largest of them all – the Crusher, Carnegie Mellon’s 6.5-ton Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle capable of performing many tasks, including convoy and armed support roles.
Further discussion of the new MAARS can be found on the TFOT forums.