If there's one place you don't want to be caught wandering around right now, it's the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea. Especially since South Korean military hardware manufacturer DoDAMM used the recent Korea Robot World 2010 expo to display its new Super aEgis 2, an automated gun turret that can detect and lock onto human targets from kilometers away, day or night and in any weather conditions, and deliver some heavy firepower.
The border between North and South Korea is a pretty amazing strip of land. Around 2.5 miles (4 km) wide, it stretches the entire width of the Korean peninsula and it's recognized as the most heavily fortified border in the world. Over the last 60 years, as North and South Korea have faced off in an aggressive and frequently violated ceasefire, this Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has been one of the deadliest places on Earth for humans. Step into the zone and there's hundreds of thousands of soldiers on either side ready to put a bullet in you just for being there.
As a fascinating aside, this has also made it one of the world's best-kept nature preserves - the complete absence of human interference leaving a more or less pristine habitat for all kinds of wildlife, endangered and otherwise.
The DMZ's history is full of incredible stories; the gigantic tunnels dug by North Korean incursion forces, the tragically doomed friendships between North and South Korean soldiers operating in the zone, the almost unbelievable defection of a South Korean farmer across the DMZ into North Korea. And perhaps this history will go on to include ice-cold robotic killers.
Through military eyes, the existence of a shoot-on-sight no-go zone several kilometers wide opens up options for some interesting high-tech hardware, like DoDaam's Super aEgis II, which we had a chance to look over in person at the Korea Robot World Expo 2010.
The Super aEgis 2 is an automated gun tower that can find and lock on to a human-sized target in pitch darkness at a distance of up to 1.36 miles (2.2 kilometers). It uses a 35x zoom CCD camera with 'enhancement feature' for bad weather, in conjunction with a dual FOV, autofocus Infra-Red sensor, to pick out targets.
Then it brings the pain, either with a standard 12.7mm caliber machine-gun, a 40mm automatic grenade launcher upgrade, or whatever other weapons system you want to bolt on to it, including surface-to-air missiles. A laser range finder helps to calibrate aim, and a gyroscopic stabilizer unit helps correct both the video system's aim and the direction of the guns after recoil pushes them off-target.
Each 140 kg (308.6 lb.) unit can be rigidly mounted or put on a moving vehicle, where the gyro stabilization would be a huge asset. They can operate in fully autonomous mode, firing first and asking questions later, or they can be put into a manual mode for more human intervention. All machines communicate back to headquarters through a LAN cable or wireless network.
There's no word about whether the Super aEgis 2 has been deployed in the Korean DMZ in the wake of several recent incidents that threaten to push the peninsula into full-scale, potentially nuclear war, but Dodaam has been exporting units as far afield as the United Arab Emirates.