Military robotics makers see a future for armed police robots

“Just like you have a laptop in every squad car and cameras in every squad car, you would have a small robot, not an EOD robot, but a small robot in every squad car and maybe that thing has a taser device on it, or some other less-than-lethal capability,” he said. “And maybe that’s used to approach a motorist at night when a cop doesn’t want to go up and approach with their hand on their holster. Maybe the robot goes up instead.”

Police bots won’t necessarily be lethally armed, said Bielat, who is a major in the Marine Corps Reserves. The key consideration is what weapons would be appropriate. “Taking an M240 machine gun and attaching it to a robot may or may not make sense. That weapon was designed to be operated by two human beings and a bunch of other things. That may not be an appropriate thing to put on a robot platform, but that doesn’t mean that no weapon system would be appropriate. It just means you’re designing something that’s unique that takes advantage of the robot,” he said.

“A robot provides a variety of options. A robot adds time and distance to the equation. The operator can sit back and use two-way audio and say ‘drop your weapon.’ A robot can use less-than-lethal force. A Marine often can’t use a taser unless he’s willing to get shot. A robot could,” he said.

The decision to arm a robot is up to the customer, Bielat said.