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Killer bomb robot sparks new debate

Image: Bomb disposal robot
An Andros bomb-disposal robot is used in a training exercise in Uruguay. A more advanced Andros robot is thought to have played a role in ending the Dallas shooting standoff. (Credit: U.S. Navy file)

This week’s horrific Dallas shooting ordeal may well mark the first time police ended a standoff with a suspect by sending in a killer robot, but it almost certainly won’t be the last time.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the robot was jury-rigged to carry an explosive into the parking garage at El Centro College where the suspect was holed up, after several hours of negotiations had stalled.

“We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was,” Brown told reporters today. “Other options would have exposed our officers in grave danger. The suspect is deceased as a result of detonating the bomb.”

The circumstances are still unclear. For example, did the suspect see this coming? How much control did the authorities exert over the robot? How close did it get? What is clear is that this isn’t a routine strategy for domestic police. Peter W. Singer, a strategist and senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of “Wired for War,” said in a series of tweets that it appears to be unprecedented.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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