The United States Air Force has revealed its first generation of semi-autonomous quadrupedal unmanned ground vehicles (Q-UGV) … aka robot dogs!
The US will be the first nation to put these robot dogs into operational use however, despite looking like something out of a terminator fever dream, they will be used primarily for reconnaissance purposes.
The ‘dogs’ have been present through USAF exercises this year but now the 325th Security Forces Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida has been announced as the first unit within the Department of Defense to adopt the futuristic quadrupeds for normal operations.
For example; ‘dogs’ could be used to patrol a predetermined path and centrally monitored by a solider throughout their patrol.
However, the ‘dogs’ are essentially a platform and can be used for a variety of other tasks. Surveillance sensors can easily be attached to the robots’ frames.
Long term the US army hopes to combine ground-level drones (like the ‘dogs’) with surveillance in the air. If they can work together they could be used to detect anomalies along a patrol area and investigate potential issues.
Ghost Robotics are aiming in improve on the ‘dogs’ mapping ability and hope to be able to autonomously map and patrol operating bases from next year.
The idea is not just that this is less dangerous for real humans but that they would be ideal to patrol areas that are not desirable for human beings and vehicles. For example; Tyndall Air Force Base is surrounded by a swampy, coastal environment at Tyndall – but the ‘dogs’ IP68 rating means they can be submerged in water up to a maximum depth of 1.5 meters.
Interestingly the ‘dogs’ can be operated by a soldier wearing virtual-reality headset allowing them to see exactly what the robot dog is detecting through its mobile camera and sensor platform. They can even issue verbal commands to anyone they meet on patrol through speakers on the ‘dogs’.
While the technology might seem like science fiction, Ghost Robotics is far from the first or only robotics firm that the US military has partnered with ( Boston Dynamics is probably the best-known company in the world for its work with robots ). It remains to be seen what platform will become dominant, the technology is certainly an interesting step forward for robotics.