Robot Dog Olympics highlights non-combatant role for SPOT in British Army

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The British Army could enlist robotic dogs following a Robot Dog Olympics event held at MOD Abbey Wood in Bristol.


The event saw nearly 40 coders from industry and defence gather to discover what capabilities robotic dogs could offer the British Army.

Teams worked with SPOT robotic dogs, which are designed to autonomously perform non-offensive tasks to protect troops by searching and scanning or delivering medicines and food into hazardous or disaster areas.

Tasks that coders were challenged to programme the dogs to do included a 50-metre sprint; a gymnastics routine and problem solving.

In a statement, Colonel Dan Anders-Brown, customer lead at DE&S (Defence Equipment and Support), said: “The coders have confirmed what we already knew. These are highly capable systems and could significantly reduce risk to life of our soldiers by removing the requirement to carry out dangerous activity in the modern battlespace.”

Natasha Dell, an algorithm engineer from Thales, added: “I have been really surprised by how agile and responsive the robotic dogs are. They are incredibly mobile and the speed at which they move is impressive as well as the tasks they can complete.”

The event was run by the Future Capabilities Group (FCG) at DE&S, the procurement arm of the MOD, in conjunction with Team Defence Information, a organisation that helps to develop solutions for the front line.

Suzy Harris, head of expeditionary robotics for FCG, said: “Robotics and autonomous systems are becoming increasingly important in allowing soldiers to operate faster, for longer and enabling them to step back from some of the most challenging and dangerous tasks.”

SPOT is manufactured by Boston Dynamics which has an ethics policy on the use of their systems in any offensive manner. Marlborough Communications Ltd (MCL) acquire the platforms on behalf of MOD and provide through life support and training.