A robot dog is set on a life-saving mission to Ukraine. It will help clear out explosives around the nation’s capital left by the retreating Russian forces.
Foreign Policy reported that the US Army had agreed to send one of its two robot dogs to Ukraine, where it will carry out demining operations around the capital Kyiv. The robot dog will help an American non-profit HALO Trust remove unexploded ordnance, including cluster munitions, and drag them to be safely exploded in batches far from civilians.
Spot, a high-tech quadruped critter developed by the US-based company Boston Dynamics, seems to be up for the task – it is designed to move in challenging terrains and can operate in temperatures as low as -20C and as high as 45C. It will use a robotic arm attachment to dispose of the munitions.
While Spot the dog robot can carry out tasks automatically, it would be challenging to do so in less predictable environments like minefields. According to a report by Foreign Policy, the robot dog was operated manually by its human handlers in train sessions last year. It said it worked well with small volatile rounds similar to those that Russia used throughout Ukraine.
It is one job where work automation is welcome, especially when human personnel is needed to deal with more pressing tasks during the war. Whether robot dogs can put flesh-and-blood canines out of work is to be seen. They may need a nose like that of a 2-year-old Jack Russel Terrier mix named Patron – the dog was declared a national hero by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky after sniffing out hundreds of bombs.
While Boston Dynamics prohibits using the Spot platform as a weapon, its possible application for military and law-enforcement purposes is evident. The robot dog trained alongside French troops in a reconnaissance exercise earlier this spring. However, its employment in the NYPD ended quickly last year after the public deemed it too creepy.
Images of Chinese-made robot dogs barking orders in Shanghai during one of the city’s latest lockdowns sent further chills down the spines of those seeing it as a glimpse into a dystopian future. Accompanied by a dispatch of drones, robot dogs urged people to stay inside, check their temperature, and wash their hands.
The makers of the original Spot robot are careful to stress its multipurpose use. It is put on display in Pompeii, an archeological site in Italy, where the robot dog inspects ancient ruins for structural and safety issues.
According to the archeological park’s authorities, the robot is used to access the “extremely precarious” underground tunnels dug by grave robbers. It is part of a broader push to apply intelligent solutions in the park’s management.
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