They’re roughly 100 pounds, look like headless dogs, and appear like something out of a science fiction film.

The Department of Homeland Security is putting robot dogs, officially known as automated ground surveillance vehicles (AGSV), through the paces in rough terrain around El Paso, Texas, in hopes that they’ll one day patrol the U.S.-Mexico border.

What You Need To Know

  • The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security has been field testing robot dogs, officially automated ground surveillance vehicles, in El Paso, Texas

  • The dogs are designed to capture video evidence and can function in terrain and in weather conditions that are dangerous for Border Patrol agents

  • The dogs run on batteries and currently can operate for about four hours before needing to be recharged

  • The dogs remain in the testing phase and there is currently no timetable for their deployment to the U.S.-Mexico border

The dogs are equipped with a video camera, known as “payload,” and are able to navigate rough terrain, operate in tight spaces and can handle high heat and low oxygen—conditions Border Patrol agents struggle with.

“The southern border can be an inhospitable place for man and beast, and that is exactly why a machine may excel there,” said Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate program manager, Brenda Long. “This S&T-led initiative focuses on Automated Ground Surveillance Vehicles, or what we call ‘AGSVs.’ Essentially, the AGSV program is all about…robot dogs.”

The dogs have limitations, however. They currently run on batteries and can only operate for about four hours before needing to be recharged.

The machines aren’t capable of making arrests but will capture video evidence in the field and transmit real-time data back to headquarters.

The dogs were developed and are being tested with a company called Ghost Robotics, which specializes in AGSV systems.

“Just like anywhere else, you have your standard criminal behavior, but along the border you can also have human smuggling, drug smuggling, as well as smuggling of other contraband—including firearms or even potentially, WMD,” said Agent Brett Becker of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Innovation Team (INVNT). “These activities can be conducted by anyone from just a lone individual, all the way up to transnational criminal organizations, terrorists or hostile governments—and everything in between.”

It’s not yet known when the robot dogs will be ready to patrol the border.