While fully-armed robots are still in prototype and testing phases, they do exist. Today, there are hundreds of drones and other mechanized tools in use on the battlefield, primarily used for search and rescue and cargo operation.
Already, remote controlled drones are making deadly strikes, and soon, we may see drastic advances in battlefield droids, and even autonomous fighters.
The fully armed Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS) is a robot capable of working on the front lines. It features multiple onboard day and night cameras and motion detectors, an acoustic microphone, a hostile fire detection system, and a speaker system. It also has non-lethal laser dazzlers and audio deterrents, less-than-lethal grenades, menacing grenade launchers, and medium machine guns.
Here's a look at some of the robots that could soon be ready to wage a war near you.
QinetiQ's Dragon Runner 20 Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) is an adaptable, modular robot capable of fitting into small spaces where humans are unable to operate. It has configurations available for ordnance disposal, reconnaissance, and security for military and first responders.
QinetiQ's Raider II autonomous vehicle is a do-it-all military workhorse. The multi-mode Polaris-based platform can be configured for cargo transport, medical use, and reconnaissance.
In manned mode, a soldier can drive and maneuver the vehicle at speeds up to 35mph. In Tele-op mode the Raider II is operated with the portable Tactical Robotic Controller up to a distance of over 1km.
When operating autonomously, the Raider II can be maneuvered utilizing a number of different methods including: follow me, waypoint following, and return to origin.
The Combat Outpost Surveillance and Force Protection System, nicknamed "Kraken" after the mythological sea creature with many heads, is a menacing military defense tool.
Combining radar, surveillance cameras, unmanned sensors, gunshot detection, and remote-controlled weapons, Kraken's radar on top of the mast can detect objects as small as a head at distances up to 10 kilometers and vehicles out to 20 kilometers.
Integrating 11 cameras which cover a 360-degree view, the system includes an Elta Ground Master Ground Systems Radar, an STS-1400 GSR, L3 AN/PRS-9 BAIS Unattended Ground Sensors, and five shot spotters to identify targets before they come within a zone in which they will become a threat.
"While the sensor and device payload is impressive and probably offers the most force protection per cubic foot compared to any other system, the key is the integration standard, fusion and automation which reduces troop to task and provides increased situational awareness -- thus resulting in more reaction time for the warfighter," said Tom O'Neill, director of Integrated Base Defense Product for the military's Joint Project Manager Guardian.
iRobot's search and discovery oriented camera-equipped PackBot has been used inside Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, as well as during military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. It will even be on patrol at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The Legged Squad Support Systems (LS3) from Boston Dynamics, is a rough-terrain robot designed to transport supplies and help soldiers carry gear in any environment.
Each LS3 is capable of carrying up to 400 lbs of gear and enough fuel for a 20-mile mission lasting 24 hours.
Using an autonomous, follow me navigation system, the LS3 can stay with the soldiers, or travel to designated locations using terrain sensing and GPS. Funded by DARPA and the Marines, the LS3 began a 2-year field testing phase in 2012.
Lockheed Martin's Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) is an unmanned transport and support system for special operations forces.
The SMSS uses a "follow me" navigation which can maneuver autonomously. The military's long term vision for the unmanned system is for not only cargo, but for reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, and armed variants which Lockheed calls "critical to today’s asymmetrical and urban battlefields."