The Super Aegis II is the opposite of a friendly robot. This automated turret, created by South Korean company DoDAAM, comes equipped with a 12.7 mm machine gun and an optional 40mm automatic grenade launcher! With its 30x zoom CCD camera, laser range finder, and infrared sensor system, the Super Aegis II can detect humans up to 2.2 kilometers away in total darkness, or 3 km away during the day. When it finds a target it can be programmed to either wait for manual confirmation from a human…or it can just open fire in a split second. That means even though the robotic gun isn’t very sneaky, on full automatic it can probably kill you before you ever see it. DoDAAM was showing off the Super Aegis II at the Robot World 2010 expo in Korea during October. With the recent hostilities between North and South Korea, robotic turrets like this one could play an increasingly larger role in guarding the enormously long demilitarized zone between the two nations. Robot guns killing humans without hesitation? Sometimes I think the world’s most produced commodity is hubris.
Earlier this summer, South Korea announced it was testing out dozens of short range automated turrets along the DMZ. Those systems had an effective range of 500 meters, more than enough to pick off an invading soldier. The Super Aegis II makes those guns look like they were made by NERF. In daylight, it can detect humans six times farther away. At night, or under severe fog, snow, or rain conditions, the Super Aegis II can still find people more than 2 km distant. It has a laser range finder and gyroscopic stabilizer so that it can unload its machine gun at full speed and still stay on target. On top of that, the DoDAAM turret can come equipped with an optional grenade launcher. As if being fired at by a robotic gun a mile away wasn’t bad enough, now you have to worry about well aimed explosions as well.
Now, the ranges for these turrets that we just discussed are for the sighting apparatus (high zoom cameras, IR sensors, etc). Effective gun range is going to be less. The most impressive sniper shot to date was something like 2.4 km. Somehow I doubt the Super Aegis II will be picking people off at 3 km, or even 2.2 km. Then again, it probably doesn’t have to. The turret communicates via LAN or wireless connection with a control center. That’s where humans can be alerted that someone just appeared in the robot’s scope. A soldier detected by the Super Aegis II who managed to evade its range could still be the target of sorties sent out by the control staff at the turret’s HQ.
The Super Aegis II may show up in many places outside of the Korean DMZ. The 140 kg system can be mounted onto a land vehicle, using its gyro stabilizers to help its aim even under less than ideal travel conditions. It can also be equipped on ships, which would probably provide some excellent protections against pirates (I hear they don’t like being hit by grenades). In fact, applications like this are already being used by militaries around the world. The US developed C-RAM, an automated turret system that can shoot down rockets and mortars. C-RAM has saved countless lives in Iraq. Adaptations of that system are already installed on ships throughout the US fleet. DoDAAM told Gizmag at Robot World 2010 that they are already exporting Super Aegis II systems to countries like the United Arab Emirates. In other words, the era of automated gun turrets has already arrived. The Super Aegis II is simply improving their eyesight.
I find these systems more than a little terrifying. C-RAM is programmed to shoot down high speed projectiles, but Super Aegis II and similar guns are meant to kill humans and nothing else. They make a certain strategic sense in places like the Korean DMZ. You have 250 km of border to patrol and the entire strip is an acknowledged “shoot on sight” no-man’s land. It’s also only 4 kilometers across. I imagine that in a few years (maybe less) we’ll have turrets that can detect humans across that relatively narrow expanse, and under any conditions. What happens when South Korea has hundreds of automated turrets along its border that can see, and maybe even shoot, soldiers standing on the opposite side? That’s an international disaster waiting to happen. How long, too, until smaller governments and even private companies rely on automated defense systems to safe guard their property in dangerous parts of the world? Untold numbers of innocent civilians have lost their lives to over-zealous men with guns who shoot first and ask questions later. That death toll is probably only going to increase when we trade out those men for robots who shoot first and never ask questions at all. You’re an impressive bot, Mr. Super Aegis II, but you and I are never going to be friends.