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US Army to Send Mine-Clearing Robot Dog to Ukraine: Report

The US Army will provide a robotic dog to help an American nonprofit remove mines and unexploded munitions in Ukraine, Foreign Policy reported, citing a source.

The US Army Futures Command approved the transfer of one of the two robotic dogs it has, the outlet added.

Washington DC-based HALO Trust will use the Boston Dynamics quadruped “Spot” to remove mines, unexploded shells, and cluster munitions from areas near Kyiv occupied by the Russian forces briefly during the war, the outlet reported, citing group executive director Chris Whatley.

Safe Mine Disposal 

Spot was put through a training session last year to demonstrate the handling of “small, volatile rounds,” similar to those used in the war-ravaged country.

The agile remote-controlled robot can tread on various terrain, including “loose gravel, grass, curbs, and stairs,” carrying 14 kilograms (31 pounds) of inspection payload, Boston Dynamics states on its website.

Spot could haul unexploded munitions — such as cluster bombs — to ditches far away from the civilian population, safely exploding them with other munitions.

“If you can just move something without endangering a human and move it far enough that you can take it to a place where it can be safely detonated with other items, you move up the curve massively,” Whatley said.

Dangerous Cluster Bomblets

Spot will undoubtedly be welcome, as the invasion has mobilized many Ukrainians for the war effort, leaving a severely depleted labor force to train for mine-clearing.  

The robot could be used for removing unexploded cluster bomblets, which spray randomly upon hitting the ground. The unexploded bomblets are particularly dangerous to children, who are likely to pick them up out of curiosity.

The mobile platform will also likely be used to clear Russian POM-3 anti-personnel mines, which are seismically triggered from a distance of 70 feet (21 meters). 

‘Task Could Take Five to Ten Years’

An estimated 300,000 square meters (3,229,173 square feet) of Ukrainian territory needed to be cleared of mines as of May 20, according to Ukrainian Deputy Interior Minister Meri Akopian. The country’s interior ministry estimates that the task could take five to ten years.

The effort is particularly challenging as an estimated 2.8 million people have crossed back into Ukraine since the war began. They risk stepping on a mine or a booby trap hidden amid the rubble of their houses. 

“Anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines, as well as other unexploded or abandoned ammunition left behind in Ukraine, threaten the lives of millions of people,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated. “They will take years to remove, hindering reconstruction efforts and making it unsafe for people to return to their previous daily lives.”

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