He may walk, bark and growl like a dog, but don’t confuse a GUS with a family dog.
GUS, the military acronym for Geographically Separated Unmanned Security Unit, is a Ghost Robotics Vision 60 series security robot recently purchased by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base.
Standing at knee height on four legs, GUS maneuvers around tight spaces that might get in the way of a wheeled or tracked robot. Gus also has a face of sorts, with two tiny cameras that look disturbingly like eyes. At the back, he has two short radio antennas that look a bit like tails. Barks and growls are emitted from speakers installed in the line and the back of the robot.
“As we’re walking around the base, it’s generating a lot of interest,” said Brian Mitchell, pipeline coordinator for the Ordnance Department at the Air Force Research Laboratory. “For most of the people we meet, this is actually the first time they’ve seen a real one.”
And while GUS has been a hit with people, the main reason to buy the $200,000 robot is to explore its potential in helping to provide security in essential facilities and across the broad Eglin Ranges.
“It’s all-weather, so it can work in the rain, it can work in loose sand, up and down hills,” Mitchell said. “We’ve worked with him in some big spaces, like one of our hangouts, and he’s moved easily there, too.”
The GUS is equipped with cameras and eventually will be equipped with multiple types of sensors and radios. One of the things they want to know about GUS’ capabilities, Mitchell said, is whether the robot can quickly relay the information it collects in the field.
“We can give that (information) back to people in the security forces who can use it to determine whether or not it’s a no-joking security issue that we have to deal with, or it’s just wildlife moving out of range,” Mitchell said.
The secondary purpose of GUS is as a tool to be used in AFRL (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) outreach efforts to persuade students to consider careers in STEM-related fields.
“One of the things we’re always trying to do is create a larger, larger STEM-educated community,” Mitchell said. “GUS is one way we can do this.”
To that end, AFRL will soon transform GUS into the Hsu Education Foundation, which brings together students and industry partners to help advance STEM-related research, education, and development in Northwest Florida. Mitchell hopes to help inspire the next generation of STEM professionals and also to tap into the creative talents of students in the Foundation’s Innovation Institute.
Student teams will work with GUS to help AFRL find answers to some of its questions about the robot. One of the things the AFRL researchers hope to learn from this partnership is how to control a robot without the need for a human to operate a tablet and joystick.
“What is the most effective way to automate the GUS and can you write some code that can help the GUS move as efficiently as possible in those areas where it will do security?” asked Mitchell rhetorically.
And when the teams are done with the GUS, they will send the robot home.
“We bring back the GUS and we also get all the code that these students wrote,” Mitchell said. “We can look at that and determine whether or not this code can be used long-term in some of our research, or if we can use it on GUS for security in our facilities and domains.”
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