The military already has armed unmanned aircraft that can fly for long hours and thousands of miles. But now it will soon have armed robotic dogs, as well.

Last week, at the annual AUSA 2021 Exposition in Washington DC, which showcases the latest in military-themed technology, Ghost Robotics and Sword International presented a quadruped robot armed with a rifle 6.5mm Creedmoor rifle on its back.

Ghost Robotics is an American firm that teamed up with small arms specialists Sword International, whose research and development team has special operations backgrounds.

Quadrupedal robots have been the rage in the field of robotics in recent years. They’re small, nimble, and can easily maneuver in terrain that vehicles cannot or that humans will not.

The 6.5mm Creedmoor rifle on the robot’s back is called the SPUR (special purpose unmanned rifle). The SPUR can be fitted on multiple Ghost Robotics quadrupedal platforms. It features a Teledyne Flir Boson 640X512 24.4mm 18° HFoV Thermal Camera Core with 30x optical zoom, a thermal camera for targeting during low-light or night operations, and boasts an effective range of 1,200 meters.


The Robot Will Go Where Humans Won’t

Robotic dog quadruped armed with a 6.5mm Creedmoor rifle. (Sword International)

According to Sword International the robot features “safe, chamber, clear, and fire capabilities that allow for safe and reliable deployment of the weapon system – providing the operator an ability to load and safe the weapon at a distance.”

“These features also provide the operator the ability to clear malfunctions and safely unload the platform prior to recovery. Chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor allows for precision fire out to 1200m, the SPUR can similarly utilize a 7.62×51 NATO cartridge for ammunition availability.” 

“Due to its highly capable sensors the SPUR can operate in a magnitude of conditions, both day and night. The SWORD Defense Systems SPUR is the future of unmanned weapon systems, and that future is now,” the company adds.

The two companies are targeting the military as a potential client for the weaponized quadruped robot. 

Ghost Robotics has already placed quadruped robot dogs at Tyndall Air Force Base where they are used by the 325th Security Forces Squadron to patrol the base’s perimeter. “These robot dogs will be used as a force multiplier for enhanced situational awareness by patrolling areas that aren’t desirable for human beings and vehicles,” Major Jordan Criss, the 325th Squadron Commander said.

Air Force security personnel patrol the perimeter of Tyndall AFB with a quadruped. (Ghost Robotics)

Boston Dynamics, which has been very visible with its robots, including quadrupeds, has a strict policy against weaponizing its products. So, Ghost Robotics and Sword International are trying to fill the vacuum in the market.

According to Defense Department’s Directive 3000-09, neither the development nor employment of Lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) are prohibited. The directive spells out the parameters of both the level of autonomy of LAWS and the role of the human operators employing the systems.

The Directive requires all systems, including LAWS, to “allow commanders and operators to exercise appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force.” As noted in an August 2018 U.S. government white paper, “‘appropriate’ is a flexible term that reflects the fact that there is not a fixed, one-size-fits-all level of human judgment that should be applied to every context. What is ‘appropriate’ can differ across weapon systems, domains of warfare, types of warfare, operational contexts, and even across different functions in a weapon system.”

While the SPUR system currently carries only a 10-round magazine that will likely change. At the present time, there isn’t any video of the SPUR engaging targets on a range. SOFREP has reached out to Sword International.