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South Korea to field gun-cam robots on DMZ

Stationary droids forced to sacrifice own lives for human overlords

Security for virtualized datacentres

Technological colossus South Korea is pressing ahead with efforts to join Israel and America in the white-hot field of killer robots.

Korean sources have announced that Samsung, a company better known for its consumer goods, is manufacturing the SGR-A1 sentry unit for deployment on the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea.

Samsung's SGR-A1 robot

The robots will be in place later this year, according to reports.

The SGR-A1 is a stationary system, enabling its designers to ignore the power, communications, and traction issues which tend to plague its mobile counterparts. Furthermore, unlike some other machines, it has a defined mission which it should genuinely be able to accomplish. The DMZ is constantly patrolled and guarded along its entire length, putting a colossal burden on South Korea's military manpower. With Southern birth rates projected to fall, the Koreans need to use their conscript army more efficiently, and SGR-A1s will save a lot of human sentries' man-hours.

The robot's primary usefulness lies in its camera systems and software, enabling it to pick out genuine intruders and – according to Samsung, anyway – ignore false alarms. Human overseers can then be alerted and decide on a response.

That response can be delivered by the SGR-A1 itself in some cases. Samsung says that the unit can be fitted with a range of weapons. Naturally, the option which grabs the most attention is the one where the robot packs a machine gun, rather than a wussy non-lethal system of some sort.

Reportedly, the SGR-A1's choice of shooter is the Daewoo K3, a fairly straight knockoff of the Belgian FN Minimi squad-auto weapon in service worldwide.

It appears that the SGR-A1 may not be exactly impossible to sneak up on, however – at least from some directions – as Samsung is careful to specify that the weapons mount is equipped with an anti-theft alarm. There is no indication from the company of any option to deliver a warning before opening fire, suggesting that intruders tangling with an SGR-A1 may not get the traditional 30 seconds to comply.

A 5.56mm light automatic is quite a decent bit of firepower, and the SGR-A1's seeming lack of speakers or mikes would suggest an uncompromising battle robot. Nonetheless, SGR-A1s evidently aren't intended to resist the North Korean army for long should the balloon ever go up.

Stationary light-machinegun posts would be easily taken out by company or battalion-level weapons – let alone tanks, artillery, or air support. The SGR-A1 would be useful principally as a sacrificial tripwire in the context of full-on combat, rather than as a warfighting system. ®

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