Mini RoboCop in development

A new addition to the urban pacification armoury will soon become available thanks to a combination of advanced robotics and TASER stun gun technology.

Jul 26, 2007
By David Howell
L-R: PC Joe Swan, Sgt Thomas Neilson and Sgt Chris Smith

A new addition to the urban pacification armoury will soon become available thanks to a combination of advanced robotics and TASER stun gun technology.

Two American companies – Taser International which makes stun guns and iRobot, which manufactures bomb disposal robots – are combining their skills to develop the new robot that will look similar to today’s bomb disposal robots that have become familiar and reliable tools. As seen in the controlled explosions in London earlier this month, robotics can provide forces’ specialised units with an effective tool. It is hoped that this new robot, which will also be equipped with cameras and microphones, will be as useful as today’s bomb disposal robots.

The new technology has not been announced without its detractors, with one Scottish officer dubbing the development as nothing more than “K9 with a TASER”. Robots are, however, now becoming commonplace as the dream of a domestic robotic helper becomes a reality. The new hospital at Larbert, Stirlingshire, will be the first to use robots to transport goods within the building.

The new robots will be controlled, as with bomb disposal robots, by remote control that will have a built-in video monitor so that the operator can see precisely what the robot sees. The first model is expected to be unveiled next month. The new device will have the ability to stun a suspect at over ten metres, patrol prison perimeter fences or even wait until activated by CCTV cameras that detect a suspicious person.

At the moment a human operator is required to decide whether a TASER is deployed – even the military using missile-equipped spy planes fires on the enemy only after the human operator has gained clearance to do so. It’s not inconceivable that a facial recognition system could combine with TASER-equipped robots that would have some level of autonomy when deploying their weapons. With latest figures indicating that a police officer is assaulted every 24 minutes, devices like TASER equipped robots could precede an officer into any particularly hazardous situation.

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