Robot dogs a first at Minot Air Force Base

Eloise Ogden/MDN Senior Airman Karen Augustus demonstrates how Chappie, a robot dog, can step up on a curb on Thursday at Minot Air Force Base. The Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Flight of the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron’s Emergency Management is the first CBRN Flight in the U.S. Air Force to have robot dogs.

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE – Chappie, the robot dog, can walk, run, kneel, climb over a curb, go up and down stairs and even bark.

The 5th Civil Engineer Squadron’s Emergency Management Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Flight (CBRN) is the first CBRN Flight in the Air Force to get Ghost Robotics’ Vision 60 unmanned ground vehicles, commonly called “robot dogs.” Chappie and its partner, Atom, also are the first for all units at Minot AFB.

Robotic dogs are being used by security forces at a few other bases where they were introduced recently.

Tech. Sgt. Dominic Garcia, noncommissioned officer in charge of Emergency Management Plans and Operations and director of Innovation at Minot Air Force Base, was instrumental in getting the robot dogs. The robot dogs are one of the Innovation cell’s projects at Minot AFB through a Department of Defense, U.S. Air Force, Air Force Global Strike Command, Small Business Administration and small businesses effort that gives the end users input on projects.

“This is a very accelerated way to stimulate small business – to put the end users input into whatever they’re receiving for the jobs that they’re going to be doing and at a lower cost and a faster timeline,” Garcia said.

Senior Airman Karen Augustus with the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron’s Emergency Management said the robot dogs arrived “in a box.” They are made by Ghost Robotics Corp. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“We pulled them straight out of the box. We were very excited and right away we read the manual. Fifteen minutes later they were up and running through the warehouse so it was very easy to follow,” Augustus said. She said the robot dogs are very user friendly.

“Everyone in our flight went out there and all took turns going over it. It really didn’t take much training, especially nowadays everyone has their electronics so it’s a little bit easier to figure out. We did have somebody come from Ghost Robotics show us a little bit more,” Augustus said.

She said Emergency Management will be using the robot dogs when they respond to CBRN or hazardous materials incidents.

“In our job, one of our responsibilities is going out and responding to any kind of those incidents,” Augustus said. “We’ll get the call and we’ll go out there. We found just from exercises that sometimes it might take us really a long time – three hours – to go out there and send one team to assess the incident.

“With this dog we can strap on equipment and send it down to the scene. It has cameras on it so we can see what’s going on beforehand. It’s going to help us eliminate the risk to airmen’s lives,” Augustus said. She said the robot dog will be able to report back to airmen and also show them the site assessment of what’s going on at the scene of the incident.

“It’s going to cut down the time tremendously – three hours to change into 30 minutes instead,” Augustus said.

The robot dogs are still in training and have not been involved in any real-life situations yet, Augustus said.

“The only training we’ve done is doing the basics of using the controls,” she said.

To see how a robot dog maneuvers during a site assessment, Augustus said they sent a dog into a pitch black building.

“We sent a dog in by itself and we stood outside of the building so we could see and watch how the dog moved in there. Everyone did very well getting the dog maneuvered in the dark without being in there and having eyes on it. You just did it through the camera on the tablet,” she said.

The robot dogs can do various movements. Augustus said they can walk, run and also can be made to walk or run faster.

“It can go up and down stairs. You can adjust the height on it so it can go straight down to the floor so if you need to see something lower down, you can see it lower down or you can move the height back up and it will go back up,” she said, “The possibilities are endless with it.”

She said they’re working with Ghost Robotics to have even more capabilities for the robot dog.

Augustus, from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, said she never imagined she would be working with robots like this. She said she really likes working with the robot dogs.

“It really is like the movies. We talk about it all the time. Everyone says, ‘I’ve always seen it in the movies. I’ve always seen it in videos but never in person.’

“It is very cool to be the first Flight for our career field to be using it and seeing what it can do, and come up with ideas to make it better and take it downrange so if they do bring more of these into the Air Force and more of these into EM (Emergency Management), we know the knowledge and we can go to other bases and show other people how to use it since we’ve had first-hand experience.

“It’s definitely an eye opener. It’s definitely very cool to be part of that experience with everyone else,” Augustus said.


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