Utilizing Robots for Defense and Security

We live in a world that seems headed towards ever increasing automation. Security and self-defense isn’t immune and is now seeing the emergence of automated solutions. With an ever-increasing demand for improved productivity, humans are finding novel ways to automate security. Because of this we are seeing the emergence of robotics and artificial intelligence in the security industry. It’s ironic in a way because of the many media stories about the concerns around protecting ourselves from a robot and AI revolution a la the Terminator but this technology can be used to protect us as well.

Robotics technology has rapidly advanced for the past five decades. As robots and their auxiliary equipment become reliable, miniaturized, and more sophisticated through AI, they are becoming increasingly utilized for security and military purposes as well.

Mobile robotics are now playing a significant role in the military, from automated patrols to probing and disarming potential explosives. With the appropriate cameras and sensors, mobile robots are employed remotely for reconnaissance patrol and transmit video messages to an operator. Robots operating for self-defense and security purposes can detect and neutralize explosive objects before they become a danger to humans.

These robot security platforms are typically mounted on a platform that is mobile via track or wheels and is often powered by a batter.  The primary robotic unit has sensors for detecting sound, movement gases and other hazards.  They are remotely controlled of an external operator.  The operator can see and track the robot with built in GPS technologies.  Robots utilized for security and self-defense purposes are yet to have full autonomy but that may be coming at some point down the road.

Major Functions of Self Defense Robots

With so much advancement in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics, there are five primary focus areas for development:

1. Robots can protect a designated area. To traversethe perimeter of a geo-designated area, security personnel use mapping software to draw the perimeter fence and program the robot to stay within those boundaries.

2. Robots that can monitor a designated area. The robot will monitor and detect movement with a camera that takes video clip of suspicious movement, time stamps it and notes the GPS coordinate and then signals the human security guards (the controller).

3. Robots can listen to social media and general internet chatter. These self-defense robots canmonitor for keywords, hashtags, and other critical information and compare it to nearby video feeds and objects within a given area.

4. Robots can have a neural pathways similar to humans and as a result, think on their own. There is a lot of development to be done in this area and full functionality is far down the road. For today the security and self-defense robots are environmentally programmable to learn about their environments and report deviation from the normal.  For example times of days when there is more general movement than not.  If that pattern changes then the proper operator will be alerted.

5. Robots can protect themselves. For robots in public they can be subject to abuse and vandalism. They can “protect” themselves via flashing lights and signals to a central operator.

The Knightscope K5 robotsExamples of Crime-fighting Security Robots

There are many significant commercial efforts to bring robotic security to the market.  Below are some of the more exciting efforts.

1. The Knightscope K5 robots

These 5 feet tall crime fighting robots are the creations of Knightscope. Knightscope is a Silicon Valley startup that was set up in 2013 in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The K5 robots are designed to function effectively with complete autonomy and are built with sensors, odor detectors, cameras and a thermal imaging system. In addition to these impressive features, they also have scanners that read up to 300 car registration plates per minute.

When on patrol, K5 relies on its GPS system and also its uses lasers to calculate the distance. The laser scanning can detect changes in an environment, while the odor detectors can monitor air pollution and detect other changes in the environment. The K5 robots can patrol along a defined route as well as roam in a geofenced area.

Juniper Networks, the Sacramento Kings, Microsoft, and NBC Universal are currently some of the organizations to have K5 robots in their offices.

2. iRobot

iRobot is well known for its production line of consumer robots designed to wash and vacuum floors, but they company is now producing robots for security and self-defense purposes, particularly to police and military. These robots go into danger zones to handle dangerous objects, scout unfamiliar territory, and even deactivate bombs, all while keeping the human operators at a safe distance. These iRobots are:

a) FirstLook
This is the most portable security and defense robot by iRobot. Weighing only five pounds, it can easily fit into a backpack. FirstLook is designed to be thrown into a place that is out of reach and they transmit video stream of the unfamiliar territory. It has been deigned to sustain impact when falling on hard concrete floors. Once inside the location, the robot can put on its flippers, regardless of how it falls, and send video streams of the environment from its four-camera 360-degree view.

b) 510 PackBot
This is a 24 pounds robot that is larger than FirstLook but with more impressive capabilities. It is an expandable robot that can be equipped for surveillance and reconnaissance, disposing of a bomb, and even toxic material detection. Its articulated arm has eight degrees of freedom, and can extend up to 73.5 inches.

c) PackBot
PackBot has a battery that can run for several hours to sustain its usefulness during a long mission. It can hit a top speed of 5.8 miles per hour and it has treads that can climb stairs and navigate rubble.

SUGV is an acronym for Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle. It is a mini PackBot that is strong enough to be used for a variety of security purposes. It can wirelessly send videos to the operator from about 1,000 meters who receives the transmission in a Google Glass-like wearable display.

e) Warrior
With an arm that has a vertical reach of 11.5 feet and strong enough to lift up to 220 pounds, Warrior is very effective in tight, tall spaces. It is the largest defense robot and can climb stairs at a 45-degree angle, cross three-foot gaps with its arm, and roll through water a foot and a half deep.

For your own home and/or offices there are many options available that can help to monitor and automate your security.  Here are a few examples:

1. Aido Robot – They have a robot in fund raising stage to monitor our home as well as play with your kids.  It’s being positioned as the social family robot.

2. Buddy – This robot is also in the fund raising and development stage. It will be a companion robot as well as provide security.

3. Sunflower Labs – Their home awareness system incorporates cameras as well as a robotic drone to help give you visual monitoring of your full property.

4. Alarm.com – They are developing a robotic drone system to monitor your property as well.

Many of these solutions are still in the development stage and many more will be coming.  It’s going to be an interesting time to see where robotic technology heads in the home, business and military.