McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — They’re four-legged, and weigh 100 pounds. But instead of a muzzle and fur, these have bolts, gadgets and cameras, and will be deployed on the Southwest border to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.
“Robot dogs” are being developed for CBP officers by the Science and Technology Directorate, a research and development arm to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
According to DHS, these new devices are being made because “the southern border can be an inhospitable place for man and beast and that is exactly why a machine may excel there,” S&T Program Manager Brenda Long said.
Formally called Automated Ground Surveillance Vehicles, the machines are commonly called robot dogs, Long said.
The goal is to deploy the robot dogs to dangerous areas to “reduce human exposure to life-threatening hazards,” according to a DHS article posted on the agency’s website Tuesday.
“It is a rugged, quadruped robot. It traverses all types of natural terrain including sand, rocks, and hills, as well as human-built environments, like stairs. That’s why you want legs, and not tracks,” Gavin Kenneally, chief product officer at Ghost Robotics told DHS in the article.
The robot dogs have been tested at a facility in Lorton, Virginia, where video and other sensor packages were mounted on them. The devices can transmit real-time video and other data back to the human operating them and can be operated from a laptop or handheld remote. They can operate on asphalt, grass and go up or down hills.
They also were studied in El Paso on the rugged border terrain and were tested in tight spaces, high heat and low-oxygen conditions.
“In a nutshell, the robot dogs would need to jump through a lot of hoops and show a significant amount of mission adaptability,” Long said.
They are being equipped with night vision, as well as chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear sensors. And should be “walking side-by-side with CBP personnel” in the near future, the agency says.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.