The concept of the killer robot is hardly new to the human imagination. Indeed authors have been imagining murderous machines for generations, and killer robots appeared in radio broadcasts and on movie and television screens shortly after each respective medium became established. Today, you don’t have to turn to H.G Wells, Orson Welles, or any other artists with or without the name Wells/Welles to encounter a killer robot, because they are no longer the stuff of science fiction or fantasy: in fact plenty of killer robots are out there in the real world right now!
Fortunately, unlike the sentient murderous robots you know and love from movies like The Terminator or 2001: A Space Odyssey, the majority of the killing machines around today must be controlled by human beings, so there are still some safeguards in place between your and a truly autonomous death device. (The degree to which human nature is a measurable safeguard is a matter worthy of profound debate, but… not here.) But the killer robots you can already find on the battlefields and in the employ of police and other security forces (or even in the private sector — yes, gasp) are certainly taking us closer to a time when you just might have a series of rapidly computed algorithms deciding whether or not you die.
15. Atlas – Basically a Terminator
When DARPA (the military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration) and the robotics firm Boston Dynamics teams up to create the Atlas robot, they probably didn’t mean to usher in the doom of the human race, but they probably did so anyway. In fact this amazingly capable bipedal robot, which features 28 moving joints, stands 6’2″ and can climb stairs, lift and manipulate objects, and stand up to strikes by heavy, blunt objects was designed to help with disaster response, but weaponizing it would be amazingly easy: just add weapons! And once it achieves sentience, we’re done.
14. The Assault TALON
The compact and capable TALON robot is a force to be reckoned with despite the fact that it is not much larger than a kid’s Power Wheels riding toy. Why? Well because this little guy can be outfitted with grenade launchers and machine guns. With its heavy-duty treads, a TALON can climb over rubble and rough terrain and can even trundle through snow and up stairs. Some versions are fully amphibious, too. So you never know when a .50 caliber machine gun might drive itself over toward you, but you can know this: it will be on the back of a robot that is not afraid of you.
13. Russian Cyborg Biker
Alright, so the humanoid cyborg robot warrior the Russians have evidently developed actually doesn’t pose a grave threat too humanity… yet. Two years ago, Russian state media released a video of a remotely controlled robot shaped like a human that could operate an ATV, slowly but precisely driving the vehicle around a track as President Putin watched on, stone faced as usual. The robot demonstrated limited capabilities and poses no real threat to anyone as is, but one should be worried because of the implication. Which is to say, yes, Russia is trying to develop killer death bots.
12. The XM129 Armed Robotic Vehicle – AKA The MULE
The XM129 Armed Robotic Vehicle was more frequently known as the MULE. While developed to a combat-ready status, this unmanned all-terrain killing machine program was cancelled a few years back because military experts thought it might not be suitable for all types of terrain, after all. That’s good news for enemies of the United States military, because in fact the MULE was quite a capable platform on most types of landscape, and it was also capable of carrying a heavy machine gun or cannon and/or rockets. It was run using a modified Xbox 360 controllers.
11. ARTS All-Purpose Remote Transport System
This bulldozer-sized robot might have a top cruising speed slower than most people jog, but that won’t matter when it’s outfitted with a 30 millimeter chain gun or with a battery of Hellfire missiles. The ARTS can be operated from up to three miles away and can be deployed by a variety of cargo aircraft. At 7,500 pounds, the heavily armored vehicle is not easily stopped and, when note dealing death with its own weaponry, is a great choice for disabling or destroying explosives, bunkers, vehicles, and more.
10. MQ-1 Predator Drone
While the proper term is either Remotely Piloted Aircraft or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle — RPA or UAV for short — the world knows this death machine as a drone. The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator drone has been used extensively both by the US military and by the CIA to deal death from above in many areas of the world. The Predator can be loaded with two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and it can loiter above a target area for more than half a day while waiting to fire those deadly units. Predators have been in the air for more than two decades now.
9. MAARS UGV Robot
The full name of the MAARS UGV — or unmanned ground robot — is the Modular Armed Advanced Robotic System. It is a small, powerful tracked vehicle that can be controlled from many miles away, and is similar to other compact military robots in many ways. Its distinction comes from that M word: Modular. The MAARS can be outfitted with an array of potent weaponry such as your basic run-of-the-mill guns and rockets, but also including advanced weapons such as lasers. (Interestingly, many military lasers are designed to be nonlethal, merely disorienting and/or blinding the enemy.)
8. AnBot Police Robot
Don’t let the charm of this robot fool you: though the egg-shaped unit looks like something out of Pixar’s hot animated film Wall-E, this Chinese-made robot was designed to maintain peace and security and to act as an enforcer when needed. The AnBot stands about four and a half feet tall and weighs around 170 pounds. It can roll along at just over 10 miles per hour and features camera and audio recording equipment as well as a button people can push to call for help. When the going gets tough, the robot can deploy an electrically charged “riot control tool.” I’m guessing that with enough amperage, that becomes a killing tool…
7. The X-47B UCAV
The acronym UCAV stands for Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle, and combat is indeed where the Northrop Grumman X-47B jet-powered blended body aircraft belongs… the combat of the future! This remotely piloted jet fighter can be landed and deployed from the ground or from an aircraft carrier, it can be refueled while in flight, and it can perform aerobatic feats that a plane operated by a human could never accomplish due to the forces that would be put on the human body. Simply put, when this fighting aircraft switches from test phase to operations in the next decade, it will be one of the deadliest things in the sky.
6. The CaMEL Bot
If you want to see a killer robot in action, head to Israel and look around for the Northrop Grumman CaMEL Carry-All Mechanized Equipment Landcover. The Israeli military has purchased dozens of these stalwart vehicles, which can carry more than 750 pounds of gear or weaponry over all sorts of terrain, including hills with a 40-degree grade and through up to a foot of water. The CaMEL can be outfitted with a .50 caliber M2 machine gun, a 30 millimeter cannon, or an MK19 grenade launcher, just to name a few of the weapons it readily accommodates. It’s slow, but deadly.
5. Iranian Nazir Robot Car
In mid 2015, Iran debuted a compact remotely controlled car called Nazir. The vehicle is only about the size of a Smart Car, but from what Western military analysts could conclude, it was still potentially quite lethal, being likely armed with twin rocket launchers and several grenade launching tubes as well. The Nazir can also likely be outfitted with a machine gun, and by now newer generations might have even more lethal capabilities. (Which is not to say that rockets and grenades are not quite lethal, for the record.)
4. Gladiator Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle
If you see a Gladiator Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle (TUGV) headed your way, you would be well advised to head the other way, fast. Fighting back against this killer robot is a poor idea, because it is basically a compact tank, albeit one operated remotely and thus impervious to fear. The Gladiator’s armor was specifically designed to resist the 7.63 millimeter assault rifle bullets used by many armies, militias, and terrorist groups around the world, while its own armaments can include the belt-fed M240 machine gun. In other words, this robot probably has you outgunned.
3. MQ-8 Fire Scout Drone Helicopter
The Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle may look a lot like a standard attack helicopter from a distance, but as it approaches you position, you will notice that it doesn’t seem to give AF about the bullets or rockets you’re firing at it. That’s because this is a remotely controlled drone helicopter. And the MQ-8 Fire Scout is a fully operational vehicle that is considered to be at active status. It can be outfitted with everything from marine mine detecting gear to laser-guided rockets and missiles.
2. The MQ-9 Reaper
Remember the MQ-1 Predator drone we talked about earlier? Well, it’s a pretty deadly system. But the MQ-9 has it beat dead to rights, as it were. While the Predator is powered by a 115 horsepower engine, the Reaper packs 950 horses aboard. It can also carry 15 times the ordinance payload of a Predator and fly three times faster. It is a true hunter-killer platform that an remain airborne for hours at a time and can strike multiple targets on each mission. (Or it can hit one target multiple times, causing all sorts of pain on the ground.)
1. Kanyon: The Russian Nuclear Drone Submarine
Now, we’re hoping reports of a Russian drone submarine codenamed Kanyon were either false or at least inflated, but in late 2016 word came out that the Russians may indeed have developed an unmanned sub with some shocking capabilities. It was rumored to have a 6,200 mile range and a blistering fast top speed of 56 knots. Here’s why the Kanyon is truly terrifying, though: it may well be capable of carrying nuclear warheads. That means a potentially undetected deployment of nuclear weapons almost anywhere on earth and with no human aboard the craft whose lives have to be protected in the course of action.
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