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The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory hopes that a machine gun toting robot can one day provide more firepower to foot patrols. Qinetiq’s Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS), a tracked robot with cameras and a machine gun, was recently showcased in a defense expo in the US. It was one of the handful unmanned systems that attracted crowds at the event.

The Warfighting Lab said MAARS could give Marines additional protection on patrols and while standing on post, and the lab is in the process of determining if the device is a good fit for the Corps.

“It’s a medium machine gun that’s not typically taken on patrol, so it increases a Marine’s firepower,” said Tim Brooks, an applications engineer at the Warfighting Lab told the Marine Times.

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Qinetiq's Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System
Qinetiq’s Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System

Operated with a handheld controller, it provides a surveillance feed from thermal and video cameras. It can “stand post” for 12 hours if it doesn’t move much and just uses its cameras. It can also be left in “sleep mode” for just over a week, Brooks said.

But it has limits, he said. It’s too small to ram through doors to enter a room, and it’s too big to move smoothly through tight corridors.

It typically carries the machine gun, but it can also carry a quad 40mm M203 grenade launcher. So far it has test-fired the machine gun in a lab setting, but not in the field. It has not yet fired a grenade, Brooks said.

MAARS isn’t entirely new to the military. The Army previously tested the system in traffic control point drills and a hostage scenario where it fired on the enemy.

On the other end of the size spectrum, the Marine Corps’ next drone might be small enough to stuff into a cargo pocket and weigh less than a can of dip.