The chance of modern day Robocops being called in to help with American crimes is seeming more likely, with US police forces being told they can request battlefield robots produced by the Defence Logistics Agency (DLA) over the last decade.
Defence Agency delegates told a conference in Washington last week that any police or homeland security department with a counter-terrorism or anti-drug mission may be eligible to get its very own robot.
Dan Arnold, a regional manager of the agency’s Disposition Office, says that ‘hundreds’ of war-hardened robots will be donated to police departments.
The likeliest robotic police recruits are ground robots, used for tactical surveillance or for explosives-handling.
The robots most likely to be used are those such as the Throwbot, a small robot which can be thrown by troops around corners to expand their fields of vision.
Robots such as the PackBot and Talon machines, which have become central to bomb disposal in Afghanistan and other war zones, may also come into use by security departments.
Miami-Dade police are already piloting a spy robot for the skies, developed by the Pentagon
The Defence Logistics Agency says it is not sure yet which robots it will be donating to which forces, because it will depend, in part, on a surplus of particular robots in military depots.
‘At this time, DLA Disposition Services does not know which robots in particular will be deemed excess as that decision is being made by the Army,’ said Lieutenant colonel Melinda Morgan, a Defence Department spokeswoman.
‘The item manager for these robots, located at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, will determine which models can be declared excess based on operational requirements and sufficient numbers of newer models presently in stock,’ she says.
Octavia is a firefighting robot which has recently been revealed by the US Navy
Miami-Dade police already fly a 14-pound (6.3 kg) spy robot developed for the Pentagon.
The pilotless aircraft is small enough to fit in a backpack and can be launched at a moment’s notice, making it a key tool in tight situations.
Developed by aircraft manufacturers Honeywell, the drone is a solution to deal with siege incidents when hostage-takers barricade themselves in a building.
The U.S. Navy’s Naval Research Laboratory has recently been testing Octavia, a fire fighting robot designed to work alongside a human team.
The Navy says the robot is built for ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ damage control, but still needs ‘some fine tuning’.