BEIT NEHEMIA, Israel — Imagine an intuitively trained special missions operative endowed with 360-degree vision who works alone or in packs to breach high-risk safe houses and bunkers, ready to shoot to kill within a second of an officer's command.
That's exactly what General Robotics Ltd., a high-tech firm tucked away in this rural community south of Tel Aviv, has developed with its trademarked Dogo, a 12-kilogram, pistol-packing killer robot for close-quarter combat and counterterrorism operations.
Named after the Argentine Mastiff, a fearless hunter trained to protect human companions, Dogo appears to be the world's first inherently armed tactical combat robot.
Unlike other small robots which carry no weapon at all, or much larger 250 kilogram-class systems designed to carry add-on remote firing stations, Dogo is integrally built to house a standard Glock 26 9mm pistol in its belly.
"No robot out there on the market is organically designed to engage the target," said Shahar Gal, vice president for business development and son of the company's founding executive, retired Israeli Col. Udi Gal.
Dogo can be equipped with pepper spray, blinders or other less-than-lethal means of engagement, Gal said. And, like other robots, it relays two-way voice commands and can conduct remote hostage negotiations.
But in its market-unique lethal mode, Dogo fires off 14 rounds per deployment via the firm's Ranger remote control unit (RCU), a proprietary man-robot interface that allows controllers from a safer position to aim and fire the weapon precisely where they point on an off-the-shelf touch pad.
Easily carried in one hand by fully armed infantrymen or special operators, the battery-powered Dogo intuitively climbs stairs, clears obstacle-laden terrain and maneuvers quietly indoors or underground for about four hours at a stretch.
Each Dogo features eight of the firm's micro-video cameras — six elevated on each side of the system's ruggedized tracks, for 360-degree vision — and two dedicated boresight cameras designated for firing the pistol.
"We put a lot of emphasis on safety, starting with the software and extending to the hardware and firm ware," said company founder and chief executive Udi Gal, a former deputy director of the Israeli MoD's research and development directorate.
In the firm's first interview, CEO Gal said Dogo is designed with input from the Israel Police's Counter-Terror Unit and the Defense Ministry's Research and Development Directorate to save lives in terrorist attacks that are proliferating worldwide. "Our slogan is risk the Dogo; not personnel."
Prior to founding General Robotics in 2009, Gal established ODF Optronics, another small Israeli firm that conceived the world's first throwable robot and provided other advanced devices to SWAT teams and special forces worldwide.
"All the software is running on the robot itself. The server is on the robot itself and the tracking is done intuitively by the robot itself. … Within this 12-kilo system, we've packed very complex technology," Udi Gal said.
The father-and-son team said their 15-employee firm has conducted several demonstrations of the new system in Israel and abroad and is ready to transition into production after firing "thousands of bullets" in different urban combat, surveillance and SWAT-type missions.
General Robotics plans to formally unveil the system next month at the Eurosatory Exhibition in Paris.
A retired Israeli general officer, a former director of research and development at Israel's MoD, was not familiar with the Dogo, but said Gal is highly regarded in Israel as a leader in the field of omnidirectional vision and image understanding. "For decades, Gal has proven to be a creative, innovative and reliable developer of high technology," said the former officer.
He declined to be identified given his ongoing involvement with Israel's MoD.
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.