Boston Dynamics’ robot dogs to join the FDNY


See Spot run. See Spot fight fires?

The New York Fire Department announced that they will begin using robot dogs made by engineering company Boston Dynamics in the department’s search-and-rescue missions.

Each $75,000 robot dog, known as Spot, will be controlled by a human operator and will be able to collect images and data.

The mechanical K-9 unit will also be used to measure the concentration of dangerous gases, gauge structural integrity and descend deep underground after a fire or building collapse.

The FDNY has recruited two robot dogs that will be on the scene in the coming weeks, becoming the first fire department in the country to utilize the mechanical helpers.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us to get acclimated to the robot dogs,” a fire department spokesperson told The Post.

The FDNY began employing the use of ground robotics nearly 10 years ago, and created a separate robotics unit in 2020.

“Our whole mission is a lifesaving one. That’s the core thing. These robots will save lives,” fire Capt. Michael Leo told the New York Times.

While the fire department seems optimistic about the use of this innovative technology, Albert Fox Cahn, a lawyer and the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, is apprehensive about how far it will go.

Spot, the four-legged robot dog from Boston Dynamics
The FDNY’s use of the robot dogs comes nearly a year after the NYPD was forced to cancel their contract with Boston Dynamics due to public and political outcry.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

“When agencies buy these new systems, they always point to the best-case scenario for use,” Cahn said. “And I agree, if it actually is used in ways that keeps firefighters safe, that would be great. But the history has always been that even if it’s first brought in for a compelling case, you get this creep where it’s used for more and more scenarios until it’s reaching areas where it just doesn’t feel justifiable.”

The news comes nearly a year after the New York City Police Department was forced to curb their robot dogs after their use was highly criticized.

Videos and photos of Spot being used to determine if anyone was inside a building after a home invasion and patrolling a Manhattan housing project while cops responded to a hostage situation went viral, with many people feeling unsettled.

Last March, then-Councilman Ben Kallos (D-East Side Manhattan) introduced a preemptive bill to ban the use of “weaponized” robots.

The bill did not pass, but then-Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested the city “rethink” its use of the dystopian police robot dog. The City Council then subpoenaed the NYPD for any robot-related contracts or agreements.

After the subpoena and much criticism, the NYPD canceled its $94,000 contract with the robotics company.

Boston Dynamics and the NYPD did not respond to The Post’s request for comment.

FDNY officials insisted that the robot dogs will only collect data on hazardous materials and situations, and are hoping that seeing Spot used as a strategic tool to save lives will alter the public perception of the use of robot dogs.

“It’s superior in every capacity,” Leo said. “This is the most reliable technology of its kind out there.”


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