A US robotics start-up has created a drone capable of carrying and firing weapons that it says could one day replace soldiers on the battlefield.
Florida-based Duke Robotics has built what it calls the Tikad, a remote-controlled drone which can be equipped with a range of different weaponry – including machine guns or a grenade launcher.
The developers say the Tikad could be used to reduce the number of ground troops that need to be deployed to conflict zones, and therefore, reduce casualties.
The drone has already won a security innovation award from the US Department of Defence.
According to Duke Robotics, the lightweight bot can be easily carried into the field and is remotely operated to reduce the risk to soldiers.
Using built-in cameras, it can also identify as well as engage with targets.
The company also claims the Israeli military has expressed an interest in the device.
“With the mission to save lives and to empower troops with immediate air power deployment, Duke Robotics has developed the TIKAD – The Future Soldier – a high-powered drone capable of carrying various light weapons payloads, with pinpoint targeting and shooting accuracy that can protect troops in a variety of dangerous situations,” Duke says on its website.
“The classic army versus army confrontation has become increasingly rare, while guerrilla warfare is now commonplace.
“The use of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to fire small arms from the air has not yet been a viable option. Until now.”
However, one robotics expert has expressed his concerns over the creation of such technology and how it could potentially result in more civilian deaths.
Robotics expert Professor Noel Sharkey told the BBC: “Big military drones traditionally have to fly thousands of feet overhead to get to targets, but these smaller drones could easily fly down the street to apply violent force.”