The first batch of 25 'Robo-Dog' MULES is likely to be inducted by the Army soon

The Army had signed a contract in September 2023 for emergency procurement of 100 such MULES. A pre-dispatch inspection of 25 robot dogs has been completed, reported ThePrint.

The Indian Army is all set to start inducting the first batch of robotic MULES (Multi-Utility Legged Equipment) in the shape of dogs, which will be deployed for surveillance, and to carry light loads through steep and uneven terrain.

Sources said an order was placed in September last year for 100 robotics dogs for emergency procurement. It is learnt that a pre-dispatch inspection of 25 such MULES has been completed. These are likely to be inducted into the Army soon.

Sources pointed out that since this was an emergency procurement, which allows contracts up to ₹300 crore, the numbers are small. If the MULES perform well, the Army will go in for a larger procurement order.

Under the fourth tranche of emergency procurement, all orders have to be placed with Indian companies. However, it is not immediately known whether the Delhi-based company with which the order has been placed, is manufacturing the product fully in India or not.

Attempts to reach out to the company did not fructify as the concerned person was unavailable for comment.

The sources said that these robotic dogs are equipped with thermal cameras and other sensors, which enable them to carry out surveillance. They can also be integrated with small arms, and can engage with an enemy without putting a human life at risk, if needed. It can also be used to carry small loads to frontline soldiers, the sources said.

The robot is controlled by a remote device used by soldiers.

“The MULES are basically for surveillance in mountainous terrain or when it is suspected that some terrorists are holding up. Risking a human life or that of a canine soldier does not make sense,” a source said, explaining the rationale behind using such equipment.

“These machines can also carry small arms and can engage with the enemy as and when needed,” the source added.

China has already inducted robotic dogs into its military. In May this year, Chinese army unveiled its newest recruit — a gun-toting robot dog, demonstrating the military’s technological foray into replacing humans with machines in combat situations.

In a joint military exercise with Cambodia, China unveiled two versions of the equipment— one that can fire at the enemy, and a lighter one that can be used to identify targets.

The robot dog ready for direct combat has an assault rifle attached to its top and weighs 50 kg. The other 15 kg robot is designed to replace human recruits in reconnaissance missions, and can identify the enemy by providing real-time transmission of footage to military posts.

The robot dog archetype was first developed by Boston Dynamics, a former Google subsidiary, and has already been inducted by the US military and the police.

According to the Massachusetts State Police, in March this year, one of the robotic dogs was shot at during a house inspection and may have saved a “real dog” or human officer from harm.

(With Reporting by ThePrint)