Autonomous armed robots designed for the battlefield are among the exhibits at London's biennial arms fair. Stuart McDill reports.
This unmanned ground vehicle - or UGV - is a fully functioning robot that can operate autonomously. It's flying relative the UAV is now a fixture in most military arsenals and the UGV is coming - says German defence manufacturer Rheinmetall. SOUNDBITE (English) ALAIN TREMBLAY, RHEINMETALL'S VP OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT "In the mid-90s only half a dozen of nations really used UAVs in the battle space. Today everybody is flying different kinds, different models, different size of unmanned air vehicles and the trend on the land domain is becoming very, very serious just like you see a level of semi-autonomous coming in industry and commercial car business and the military is no different." The Multi Mission Unmanned Ground Vehicle or MMUGV is yet to be given a snappy name - but it's already selling.... with weapons, surveillance and cargo versions on offer. SOUNDBITE (English) ALAIN TREMBLAY, RHEINMETALL'S VP OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT "We see this as a force multiplier either in a weaponised version, allowing you to bring much heavier weapons up front with the dismounted troops or with a surveillance version providing you a high level of sustained, good quality surveillance, long range, or basically a pure cargo version just to help you carry heavy equipment around the battle space." The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots say machines that can kill without human intervention cross a moral and ethical line but it's a line that was crossed when drones were armed, according to Alain Tremblay SOUNDBITE (English) ALAIN TREMBLAY, RHEINMETALL'S VP OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT "I don't think that you're going to get into a Star Wars game of robots against robots in the battle space but the technology to go there is all there. And that's the challenge that the military forces are facing with any new technology. How do I take that technology and make it add value to my concept of operation, my modus operandi, and how I want to wage war in the 21st Century? And it's not an easy answer, not an easy answer whatsoever." The MMUGV base module costs around half a million dollars.