April 26, 2009: The U.S. Army has developed a remote control sniper system. The Autonomous Rotorcraft Sniper System (ARSS) is currently being tested on a helicopter UAV, but could be mounted on fixed wing UAVs, or ground mounts. The sniper rifle is a stripped down Manufacturing Edge 2000 Rifle, weighing 14 pounds and firing the 8.6mm round Lapua Magnum. This round can hit effectively out to about 1,600 meters. Snipers in Iraq, and especially Afghanistan, have found the Lapua Magnum round does the job at twice the range of the standard 7.62x51mm round.
This 8.6mm round entered use in the early 1990s, and became increasingly popular with police and military snipers. Recognizing the popularity of the 8.6mm round, Barrett, the pioneer in 12.7mm sniper rifles, came out with a 15.5 pound version of its rifle, chambered for the 8.6mm.
The key to the success of the ARSS was the development of a lightweight, stabilized turret, accurate enough to enable the remote shooter to accurately hit man sized targets at over 1,000 meters. The scope on the ARSS feeds real-time video back to the controller, which is actually a modified XBox controller.
The army will continue testing ARSS through the Summer, before deciding if the 150 pound system is reliable and accurate enough to send to the combat zone. While useful when mounted on aircraft, ARSS might prove most effective on the ground, as part of a security system protecting large bases, like air fields. Here, you would want precision firepower to deal with threats, as an automatic weapon could possibly harm equipment or personnel on the base, not to mention civilians living in the area. A sniper weapon avoids all this. Given the video game quality of ARSS, you would not need trained snipers to operate it, just troops who had spent thousands of hours playing video games.