Skip to main content
Move the World.
robot dogs

Lead Image Courtesy of U.S. Air Force

In January, four robot dogs will join the men and women serving at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.

While the U.S. Department of Defense has experimented with robot dogs before (remember AlphaDog?), these mechanized canines will be the first to join the military on a permanent basis — but they might not be the last.

robot dogs

The robot dogs will soon be full-time members of the U.S. Air Force. Credit: U.S. Air Force / John Goddin

Roving Robot Dogs

The robot dogs headed to Florida in 2021 are technically known as Vision 60s, and they're the work of Philadelphia's Ghost Robotics.

The four-legged robot dogs can climb stairs, walk through water, and withstand freezing temperatures. While they don't have heads, they do have a robust system of sensors and cameras, and that makes the robot dogs well suited for their future job at Tyndall as security patrol.

When the robot dogs get to Florida, airmen will teach each of them to follow specified routes around the base. After that training, the robot dog will be able to trot along the path on its own.

If a handler wants to see what the robot dog sees or to take control of it, they can put on a virtual reality headset. They can even talk to people through a radio attached to the robot dogs.

Metalhead IRL?

The robot dogs at Tyndall aren't expected to replace any humans (or even any furry military dogs).

Rather, the plan is to have the new robot dogs patrol areas that "aren't desirable for human beings and vehicles," according to Criss. This will free people up to handle other tasks that robots can't do.

"Imagine every time (the Air Force goes) somewhere to refuel, to pick up supplies, or to protect our fighter jets on the tarmac, our robots climb out and do perimeter security," Ghost Robotics CEO Jiren Parikh told Digital Trends.

If the deployment at Tyndall goes well, Ghost Robotics hopes to be selling more of its robot dogs, which start at $100,000, to the U.S. military in the not-so-distant future — and not just as mechanized security guards.

"We can see them in war zones, working with bombs, scouting, targeting, probably in 2022," Parikh told the Washington Post. "These can really become a warfighter's best friend."

The military wrote in a press release that the robot dogs have the potential to outperform existing equipment in a "deployed environment."

"These can really become a warfighter’s best friend."

Jiren Parikh

That potential use of the robot dogs in places where people are actively fighting inevitably leads to questions about autonomous "killer robots" — will these robot dogs be weaponized?

Ghost Robotics has said that's not in the plans. Parikh told Digital Trends that the robot dogs are designed strictly for bomb disposal, scoping out perimeters, and identifying threats.

"We want these robots to keep our people out of harm's way," he said.

We'd love to hear from you! If you have a comment about this article or if you have a tip for a future Freethink story, please email us at [email protected].

Up Next

AR
Military Dogs May Soon Sport AR Goggles in Enemy Territory
military dogs
AR
Military Dogs May Soon Sport AR Goggles in Enemy Territory
Military dogs will don augmented reality goggles to test their ability to keep soldiers safe by allowing them to direct the dogs from afar.

Military dogs will don augmented reality goggles to test their ability to keep soldiers safe by allowing them to direct the dogs from afar.

Robotics
This Robot Dolphin Could Free Animals From Captivity
robot dolphin
Robotics
This Robot Dolphin Could Free Animals From Captivity
This robot dolphin could replace the real ones forced to entertain people at marine park exhibits across the globe.

This robot dolphin could replace the real ones forced to entertain people at marine park exhibits across the globe.

Aflac
The Robot Duck Helping Kids With Cancer
The Robot Duck Helping Kids With Cancer
Watch Now
Aflac
The Robot Duck Helping Kids With Cancer
Nation of Artists and Freethink are proud to partner with Aflac, Sproutel and Carol Cone On Purpose for the launch...
Watch Now

Nation of Artists and Freethink are proud to partner with Aflac, Sproutel and Carol Cone On Purpose for the launch of My Special Aflac Duck, a social robot designed to bring comfort and joy to kids with cancer, and already the winner of the Tech for a Better World Innovation Award at CES 2018, Engadget’s official Best of CES Awards for Best Unexpected Product, and the CES Showstoppers Award for Best Robotics.

Coronavirus
Dogs That Can Smell Coronavirus Screen Travelers at Airport
Dogs That Can Smell Coronavirus
Coronavirus
Dogs That Can Smell Coronavirus Screen Travelers at Airport
Detection dogs that can smell coronavirus in a person’s sweat are now screening travelers for COVID-19 at Helsinki Airport.

Detection dogs that can smell coronavirus in a person’s sweat are now screening travelers for COVID-19 at Helsinki Airport.

Robotics
Why Researchers Built a Robot Snake
Why Researchers Built a Robot Snake
Watch Now
Robotics
Why Researchers Built a Robot Snake
Believe it or not, there's a good reason this robot snake exists
Watch Now

When building robots, scientists often struggle to perfect the robot's movements. They turn to the natural world in order to solve this problem, finding inspiration from animals such as spiders, dogs, and even humans. However, studies show that even though we live in a world that is largely built for humans, robots that appear to be too "human-like" make people uneasy. Thus, researchers at Carnegie Melon developed a...

Uprising
Robot Bees Could One Day Save Your Life
robot bees
Uprising
Robot Bees Could One Day Save Your Life
For the first time, a microbot powered by soft actuators has achieved controlled flight.

For the first time, a microbot powered by soft actuators has achieved controlled flight.

Robotics
Meet Snatcher, the Chameleon Lizard Robot With an Ultra-Fast Tongue
chameleon lizard robot
Robotics
Meet Snatcher, the Chameleon Lizard Robot With an Ultra-Fast Tongue
The chameleon lizard has a highly specialized tongue. Now, a team of engineers created a quick-tongued robot.

The chameleon lizard has a highly specialized tongue. Now, a team of engineers created a quick-tongued robot.

Vaccines
A New Molecule May Take The Edge Off Vaccines — And Make Them Perform Better
adjuvants
Vaccines
A New Molecule May Take The Edge Off Vaccines — And Make Them Perform Better
Adjuvants create a better vaccine immune response, but they also cause inflammation. A peptide may help curb their side effects while improving protection.

Adjuvants create a better vaccine immune response, but they also cause inflammation. A peptide may help curb their side effects while improving protection.