Remote controlled police dogs

Published 25 January 2011

Researchers at Auburn University are testing a new system that can help law enforcement and military personnel guide dogs remotely; the system relies on a non-invasive harness that contains a GPS unit, radio device, and sensors that can all be remotely controlled by a computer; vibrations and audio commands guide the dog; possible uses include dangerous surveillance situations where dogs are less suspicious, delivery of medical aid in hard to access places, and having a single handler direct multiple dogs; unlike unmanned drones or robots, dogs can easily avoid obstacles and harm

Researchers at Auburn University are testing a new system that can help law enforcement and military personnel guide dogs remotely.

The researchers have developed a non-invasive solution using a custom harness that can be controlled wirelessly from a computer. The harness contains a GPS unit, sensors, and a radio system.

Handlers can guide the dog using vibrations on the left and right side of the harness as well as various audio tones.

This harness could prove particularly helpful in high risk situations where it is too dangerous for an officer to be present guiding a dog.

If I’m trying to locate drugs, I don’t necessarily want the cartel know that I’m snooping around,” said David M. Bevly, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Auburn University. But sending a dog to investigate remotely could be “a little less noticeable.”

Other uses include sending a dog to deliver medical aid to military personnel under fire or even having a single handler guide multiple dogs around an airport or compound for inspection.

Alan Poling, a professor at Western Michigan University, says,” You could operate in potentially any setting where you didn’t have to have a handler nearby.”

Rather than using robots or unmanned drones in these situations, dogs have the ability to quickly move around a variety of obstacles. Dogs also have the ability to protect themselves and are not necessarily being put in harm’s way.

According to Paul Waggoner, a senior scientist at the Canine Detection Research Institute and a member of the research team, “The reality is, a dog is much more capable at avoiding, recovering, and basically retreating from any kind of dangerous situation than a person is.”

Often, a person is what’s encumbering a dog,” he said.

Beginning in the 1970s, police dogs, or “K-9 units,” began to be widely used in American law enforcement. These units have been used to detect bombs, sniff out drugs, track criminals, chase suspects, and control crowds.

The research team is currently testing the harness, successfully guiding a Labrador to various points hundreds of meters apart.

Thus far the dog has followed commands accurately 80 percent of the time and the harness system has issued correct commands 99 percent of the time.

Researchers are looking to guide the dog through more complex tasks at distances of three to four miles next.