Robot Dogs: A New Addition to Police Departments?

It is no surprise that technology has transformed law enforcement. From drones to gunshot detection systems to comprehensive scheduling software, they help police be as effective as possible. And now, robot police dogs may be the next addition to that growing list. While there are numerous police dogs, this robot dog is undoubtedly a unique invention that one police department has started to experiment with.

Spot: The Robot Dog

Boston Dynamics, an American engineering and robotics design company, released its creation of a semi-autonomous robot dog, named Spot, in 2015. Its release caught massive public attention, and now is viral again after a new promotional video was shown to introduce SpotMini – a version that is now commercially available to a select few. With over 22 million views, this video demonstrates the robot’s versatile capability, as it navigates challenging terrain and bad weather, and carries heavy objects.

SpotMini can even dance! As a quick overview, here are some of SpotMini’s features:

  • 360-degree camera
  • Crash protection
  • Can carry up to 31lbs
  • Top speed of 3mph
  • Can operate in temperatures ranging from -4 F to 113 F

Several companies in construction, oil and gas inspection, electric utility, and entertainment are starting to use SpotMini and have seen its benefits. In the area of construction, SpotMini is being used to work on an airport project in San Francisco, where it performed the laborious job of site surveying. Using SpotMini effectively saved time, as well as an improvement in regularity and consistency.

SpotMini’s Role in Law Enforcement

Recently in August of 2019, the Massachusetts State Police (MSP) became the first law enforcement agency to lease SpotMini. The MSP acquired the robot for 90-days, as a test trial. SpotMini was put to work with the bomb squad, where records stated the intention was to evaluate “the robot’s capabilities in law enforcement applications, particularly remote inspection of potentially dangerous environments.”

SpotMini can be seen at work in the clip below.

Due to the robot’s durable and versatile capabilities, it makes sense to see why SpotMini would be an excellent addition to the bomb squad. As the robot’s intended role is to approach the suspicious objects or dangerous suspects first, it would decrease the chance of endangerment to humans. As well, SpotMini’s ability to open doors and navigate in rough terrain allows it to achieve its task in any situation, unlike current police robots, which are less adaptable.

Check out our blog post to learn about other police robots who serve different functions.


However, this initiative has been met with some concerns regarding whether there are proper safeguards in place to protect civilians against this kind of innovative technology. To address this, the MSP and Boston Dynamics guarantee their agreement does not allow the robot to be used “in a way that can physically harm or threaten anyone.” David Procopio, an MSP spokesman, ensures that SpotMini is just being used as a “mobile remote observation device.”  Going further, Boston Dynamics makes sure to emphasize their clause that states that their robots are not to be used in a way that “physically harm or intimidate people.”

It will be interesting to see the ways law enforcement will change with innovative and sometimes, unconventional robotic technologies. As Procopio puts it,

“Robot technology is a valuable tool for law enforcement because of its ability to provide situational awareness of potentially dangerous environments”

What do you think of SpotMini as a member of the bomb squad? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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