The immigration police have officially added robot dogs to their arsenal
The militarized automatization of the United States’s southern border continued apace this week, with an announcement from the Department of Homeland Security trumpeting the forthcoming deployment of “Man’s best friend [...] with a very futuristic twist.”
That twist, it turns out, is the inevitable-seeming reality that those charming robot dogs whose hilarious antics and tribulations have bewitched the internet for years will soon turn their cold, unfeeling, infrared night-vision ocular sensors on some of the most vulnerable people on earth: undocumented immigrants risking their lives to enter the country. Who could have seen it coming?
Operating under the decidedly less charming moniker of “Automated Ground Surveillance Vehicles,” the robot dog operation is the result of a partnership between Customs and Border Protection, DHS’s “Science and Technology Directorate,” and Ghost Robotics, a Philadelphia-based military contractor that touts its “cutting edge solutions addressing defense, homeland, and enterprise customer needs.” In this particular instance, those needs seem largely predicated on the question, “How can we further militarize the southern border in as terrifyingly dystopian way as possible?”
“Just like anywhere else, you have your standard criminal behavior, but along the border you can also have human smuggling, drug smuggling, as well as smuggling of other contraband — including firearms or even potentially, WMD,” CBP Agent Brett Becker explained in the DHS release. “These activities can be conducted by anyone from just a lone individual, all the way up to transnational criminal organizations, terrorists, or hostile governments — and everything in between.”
So, you see, if the U.S. doesn’t program horrifying mechanized hounds to patrol the deserts of the Southwest, then terrorists will bring meth-flavored nukes into the country. And the robo-dogs aren’t being programmed to just wander the border, either. As DHS makes clear:
... Testing transitioned to an indoor training facility that was built to replicate a residential building. There, the robot dogs would encounter a scenario that simulated being met by potentially hostile individuals. Set to the operator driven mode and using the wireless connection, the operator would maneuver the AGSVs to enter the structure, move through hallways, and peer around corners, as well as navigate stairs.
And while DHS doesn’t mention it specifically in their press release, Ghost Robotics is the very same company that just a few months ago trumpeted the fact that they’d slapped a high power sniper rifle onto the back of one of their pooches to complement its existing array of extensive surveillance gear. Those robo-gun-dogs were specifically crafted for the U.S. Army, and not DHS, but it’s hard not to imagine a “well, as long as we can” mission creep prompting similar modifications to the units set to deploy domestically as well.
Cryptically, DHS ended its press release with the sort of theoretical scenario best read in a spooky Twilight Zone-ish voice:
In the future, could metallic beasts of burden shoulder some of the physically taxing and dangerous operational work to become a CBP agent or officer’s best friend?
After the successful completion of the use-case scenarios (that confirmed real-world capabilities) the robot dog work will continue with S&T leading the way. So, don’t be surprised if in the future we see robot “Fido” out in the field, walking side-by-side with CBP personnel.