Spot the dog now surveys two Cold War weapon sites in the UK

The versatile robot will help create a virtual representation of the facilities.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Spot the dog climbing stairs.jpg
Spot the dog climbing stairs.

Boston Dynamics 

In a first for the UK’s National Trust, Boston Dynamics’ robotic dog Spot is being used to survey two Cold War weapons testing sites located in Orford Ness, Suffolk.

This is according to a report by the BBC published on Thursday.

Spot, a versatile quadruped robot, has drawn a lot of interest as well as clients in recent years for its cutting-edge capabilities and its many potential uses.

Efficiency and speed

The machine has been designed to tackle a variety of tasks with efficiency and speed. Its lightweight and agile design allow it to navigate rough terrains, climb stairs, and function effectively both indoors and outdoors.

Spot can change its speed and posture to adjust to different environments, can execute dynamic movements and can trot, walk, and crawl.

The robot is equipped with ports that allow it to carry a variety of payloads, including cameras, sensors, and other specialized equipment. As a result, it is appropriate for tasks such as data collection, inspections, and monitoring.

Spot has the ability to function autonomously or be remotely controlled by a human operator. It can avoid obstacles and gracefully navigate challenging sites thanks to its sophisticated perception abilities.

Developers can adapt and program Spot for a variety of tasks using the software development kit (SDK) and application programming interface (API) Boston Dynamics provides.

Completely inaccessible

Russell Clement, the National Trust's general manager for Suffolk and Essex Coastal, told the BBC the organization is using Spot to perform assessments of these old facilities because navigating them without support is a “headscratcher.”

"These buildings are completely inaccessible but really really important. They're going to be lost to the sea eventually," he said.

"We want to know how to record them and here we are we had this amazing, cutting-edge technological solution."

The pagodas, which were built in 1960, were two of six laboratories that served as test cells for the atomic bomb's environmental trials.

The project is being run with the cooperation of Historic England, civil engineering contractors BAM Nuttall and University College London. The hope is that the robot will help the experts collect a detailed survey of the dangerous buildings without putting any humans in harm’s way.

"We want to capture the size and the geometry of the buildings, because they are under managed decay at the moment, but we also wanted to create some content so visitors can have a look inside - there's no other means we can do that,” told the BBC Colin Evison, from the robot's operator BAM Nuttall.

Clement added that the team behind the new initiative will recreate virtual representations of the buildings using the data collected by Spot. These will be shared with tourists and other visitors. The researchers are also employing drones to map the locations.

Spot was initially introduced by Boston Dynamics as a research platform for programmers to investigate and design robotic applications. Over time, it evolved into a commercially available product. 

Since then, Spot has found applications in a wide range of industries, including construction, agriculture, oil and gas, public safety, and research. Its price is currently in the tens of thousands of dollars.

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