This quadruped robot can work in many natural terrains, like sand, rocks, and hills.

This quadruped robot can work in many natural terrains, like sand, rocks, and hills.

Photo: Ghost Robotics

A fleet of Automated Ground Surveillance Vehicles is being tested at the U.S. southern border. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the machines, which are being referred to as "robot dogs," are being tested in a number of surveillance-focused roles. The initiative is being led by the DHS' Science & Technology directorate (S&T).

“The southern border can be an inhospitable place for man and beast, and that is exactly why a machine may excel there,” said S&T Program Manager Brenda Long. “This S&T-led initiative focuses on Automated Ground Surveillance Vehicles, or what we call ‘AGSVs.’ Essentially, the AGSV program is all about…robot dogs.” 

The goal of the program is to leverage technology to force-multiply the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) presence, as well as reduce human exposure to life-threatening hazards.

Early on, CBP voiced interest in a four-legged ground drone solution. The S&T program collaborated with Ghost Robotics to create the AGSVs. Ghost Robotics re-engineered a version of its pre-existing robot dog for the CBP mission.  

According to Gavin Kenneally, the chief product officer at Ghost Robotics, the 100-lb. robot dog was bred for the type of work that CBP needs done.

“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," Kenneally said. "That’s why you want legs, and not tracks.”

The DHS reports the AGSVs work well with in the hot, rocky, dry region. The S&T team worked with the U.S. Army's Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate and Ghost Robotics to ensure the robot dogs were prepared to engage in a diverse set of evaluation tasks, which would otherwise be dangerous for CBP agents and officers.

The machine can navigate autonomously or be controlled manually and can be equipped with a number of accessories, including thermal and night vision cameras. 

The DHS reports that the trials were “successful,” and that work with the machines will continue.

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