Written by Brian Higgins, President of Group 77, Robolliance Expert
The use of robots, especially in the field of law enforcement, is not new. In fact, law enforcement agencies have used them for decades. So, why has there been so much interest in the use of robots for public safety and security lately?
Although robots have been deployed by law enforcement agencies for quite some time, their capabilities have changed very little. Until recently, the greatest improvements have been to the items that assist in controlling the robots. They include improvement to the range at which a robot can be operated, the distance an image from a camera can be transmitted and the image quality. For years, robots have been used primarily by police bomb units and in the last decade their use has increased with tactical teams. That is because, in part, robots used by law enforcement agencies were extensions of officers. They were controlled by an operator remotely with the purpose of providing a measure of safety but incapable of operating independently.
Those operations were tedious and painstaking because the functions of the robot were performed from a remote location by the operator with the assistance of remote viewing. The motions of the robot were basically the robot mimicking the movements of the operator. The motion of today’s robot is much more fluid and more precise than a human’s motion. This is evidenced in the use of robots for medical purposes.
The robots of today are all together different. They can perform pre-programmed missions and respond to changes in their environment without the direct control of humans. The robots that are available for law enforcement include unmanned ground vehicles that perform missions that are routine, allowing our police to address the more critical functions of their profession.
Law enforcement officers are facing dangers that we have never seen before. We have fantastic police officers in the United States, who are highly trained and professional, yet our resources are being stretched beyond their limits. The amount of work we expect officers to perform is increasing. Whereas the robots of the past were deployed only during emergency operations, today we can deploy robots to perform the routine tasks providing for increased safety and security of police officers.
Many times law enforcement officers respond to reports of crimes that are not as serious as first reported or not what the caller perceived them to be. Today’s robots can be programmed to perform missions such as patrols, investigate reports of unauthorized entry or respond to unusual occurrences. Once the robot has responded to and investigated an unusual occurrence new technology allows for the robot to take the appropriate pre-determined action to rectify the situation or request human response.
The biggest step to integrating this technology is to understand that today’s robots are not the same robots.