BEIT NEHEMIA, Israel — Israel’s General Robotics has demonstrated what it says is the world’s first operational armed robot, aimed at providing special forces and homeland security personnel an unmanned vehicle when confronting adversaries.
Defense News attended the live-fire demo of the DOGO tactical robot this month in central Israel.
The company’s CEO, Shahar Gal, said the idea of armed robots is controversial because of media depictions of “killer robots” like those in “RoboCop.” DOGO’s movements and weaponry, however, are controlled by a person using a hand-held, tablet-like device, rather than artificial intelligence.
Gal said the 10-kilogram robot is operational in Israel, India and France. According to the company, a country expressed interest in acquiring the robot the same week as the live-fire demonstration.
DOGO is meant to be a solution to what Gal called the “fatal funnel” of urban counterterror operations, such as doorways, hallways and stairwells, by providing enhanced situational awareness and lethality.
“One of the major problems [security forces] face is friendly fire issues,” Gal said. “Let’s say there is a terrorist behind a wall, and I’m asking you to go check it out and people are sent into a situation where they are under fire and may make bad decisions.”
The robot is controlled by a hand-held device with triggers underneath it to operate the Glock 9mm handgun with which the robot is armed, and it has a safety latch to prevent accidents.
After driving around an office and climbing stairs, the robot was put to the test on a shooting range. It shot 10 balloons and competed against a marksman, grouping its shots with a laser pointer projected by the robot that shows the targeted area.
With eight cameras for a 360-degree view, it is 1.6 feet long and can drive at 3 mph with a two- to five-hour endurance. It also has a two-way radio that enables the operator to give commands to a suspect or blare a siren. The robot can also be equipped with a nonlethal pepper spray canister on top.
It’s main armament, the Glock, must be loaded and placed inside the robot before deployment, which means the robot is limited to 14 rounds before it would need to return to the operator to be reloaded. And the robot can function up to 300 meters from its operator, according to General Robotics. These are the reasons why the platform is offered for urban or close-quarter operations.
General Robotics also makes the Pitbull, an ultralight weapon kit for manned and unmanned platforms.
Gal noted that while other unmanned vehicles and bomb disposal robots exist, DOGO’s unique characteristic is that it can shoot.
Seth J. Frantzman is the Israel correspondent for Defense News. He has covered conflict in the Mideast since 2010 for different publications. He has experience covering the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and he is a co-founder and executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.