Boston Dynamics' Robot Dog Used by French Army in Combat Drills

The French military has been using "Spot"—quadruped robot—during military exercises; however, Boston Dynamics says it was unaware of the test runs.

Boston Dynamics' Spot

Image via Getty/Daniel Reinhardt/picture alliance

Boston Dynamics' Spot

Boston Dynamics’ dog-like robot has been deployed by the French army.

As pointed out by The Verge, the quadruped robot known as “Spot” has been photographed alongside soldiers-in-training during military exercises. The images, which have surfaced on social media, were reportedly taken back in March during drills at the French army camp Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan. French outlet Ouest-France reports the Boston Dynamics dog is one of several robots—including the Nexter ULTRO and Shark Robotics Barakuda—that are being tested by France’s Combined Arms School students. It is believed the French army is considering using Spot for reconnaissance in combat operations.

“Four students carried this applied research exercise project to three scenarios: an offensive action with the capture of a crossroads, a defensive action by day and then at night, and urban combat,” said Gérard du Boisboissel, a Coëtquidan engineer.

"Quand l'EMIA part au combat avec des robots terrestres"

— Académie militaire de Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan (@SaintCyrCoet) March 31, 2021

21. Je déploie le robot pour reconnaitre OSCAR3.
Retour en images sur l’exercice de recherche appliquée organisé les 30 et 31 mars par l’EMIA et le centre de recherche. Robotisation du champ de bataille : sensibiliser les élèves aux enjeux de demain. #CapaciTERRE #Robots

— Académie militaire de Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan (@SaintCyrCoet) April 6, 2021

Michael Perry, Boston Dynamics’ vice president of business development, told The Verge the firm was not aware of these exercises and the robots had been supplied by a European-based Shark Robotics.

“We’re learning about it as you are,” Perry said. “We’re not clear on the exact scope of this engagement,.”

Spot reportedly weighs about 70 pounds and is equipped with a 605Wh battery and stereo monochrome cameras that provide a 360-degree view. The machine, which is controlled through a tablet, is primarily used to “inspect dangerous, inaccessible, and remote environments”; automate data collection; and “carry payloads on unstructured or unknown terrain.”

Perry told The Verge the robot will never be equipped with weapons, but acknowledged how it could be useful on the battlefield.

“We unequivocally do not want any customer using the robot to harm people,” he said. “We think that the military, to the extent that they do use robotics to take people out of harm’s way, we think that’s a perfectly valid use of the technology. With this forward-deployment model that you’re discussing, it’s something we need to better understand to determine whether or not it’s actively being used to harm people.”

Latest in Life