A robot dog designed and manufactured in the United States by Ghost Robotics and which had been in the earlier stages of development last year has been given its marching orders for a major assignment.
The Ghost Robotics V60, is an autonomous ground drone that goes by the name of Robot Dog – but a year ago, its future military potential was considered still a little way off.
Now, Robot Dog is being deployed to the US border with Mexico to tackle what the government has described as non-environmental threats.
The autonomous ground drone proved hugely popular at last year's DSEI exhibition - the world's largest gathering of the military and defense community – which was held over five days at London's Excel Centre.
The team behind the robot wooed crowds as they demonstrated the mechanical canine's abilities in tackling different military tasks and obstacles, promising almost limitless humanitarian, security and even combat possibilities.
The US Government said Robot Dog's deployment to the American Southwest region would assist with enhancing the capabilities of customs and border protection personnel, while simultaneously increasing their safety downrange.
The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), research and development advisors to the US Department of Homeland Security, described the terrain of the American Southwest, where Robot Dog will primarily be deployed on this operation, as a blend of harsh landscape, temperature extremes and various other non-environmental threats, adding that the region presents dangerous obstacles for those who patrol the border.
An S&T spokesperson added: The southern border can be an inhospitable place for man and beast, and that is exactly why a machine may excel there.
However, the deployment of the robotic dog by the Department of Homeland Security has drawn criticism from one influential human rights campaigner, who described its use as like something from an episode of Black Mirror – the fictional television program devised by the comedian Charlie Brooker.
Moustafa Bayoumi, author of This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror, took to protesting in a column for The Guardian in which he said, what we're talking about is the further encroachment of government surveillance on our daily lives.
He added: Then there's the question of lethal force. These specific ground drones may not be armed, but Ghost Robotics is already infamous for the combination of robot dog and robot rifle.
Jiren Parikh, CEO of Ghost Robotics, told Forbes magazine he supports Ghost Robotics’ defense customers, such as the US Government, to outfit the robots as they see fit to keep people safe.
While these specific Robot Dogs are not armed, Mr Parikh suggested that robots of this kind in general were no more of an issue in terms of lethal force than, say, drones, since they still needed a human operator to control them.