FDNY buys robot dogs

Public safety officials in New York City are going to try to deploy robot dogs again.

This time it won't be the NYPD.  The FDNY is going to use them for search and rescue missions.

The NY Times reports that the fire department has already purchased two of the $75,000 Boston Dynamics robot dogs.  FDNY officials confirmed the information to FOX 5 News.  The plan is to use the robots in dangerous search and rescue missions.

It is quite a different use for them than the ones that the police department bought last year.  The NYPD drew immediate backlash when their blue police dogs were seen at crime scenes.

New York City cut its contract with Boston Dynamics and scrapped the program and some elected officials looked to ban their use by law enforcement.

The sudden termination came after a video of the dog patrolling a housing project in Manhattan went viral.

State Senator Brad Hoylman represents the district where the incident took place.  He thought deploying the robot dog anywhere undermined police-community relations but especially in a public housing complex where residents might already mistrust the police.

"They deserve policing that is humane and human," Hoylman said.

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The Times reports that the way the FDNY plans to use the robots might help change the public's perception of them.

The first big change might be their color.  While the NYPD had theirs painted blue to make them look more like police department tools, the ones the FDNY is testing are yellow.

Boston Dynamics markets the robots as a public safety tool to keep people out of harm's way to assess hazardous situations.

It calls the robot dog Spot and says the agile robot climbs stairs and traverses rough terrain with ease.

The company says it can be deployed with specialized sensors to detect radiological and nuclear material, toxic gases, and other hazardous materials.

The FDNY has looked for advanced technology since the 9/11 attacks.

It used a tethered drone to respond to a fire for the first time in March 2017.  

Robotics is now its own unit inside the FDNY.