Some cities, such as London, have vast networks of CCTV cameras that law enforcement can use to monitor public streets and keep order. But, most cities in the good ol’ US of A — and much of the rest of the world — rely almost entirely on CCTV cameras installed by private businesses. That means that law enforcement can generally only watch that footage while investigating a crime that has already been committed. Josh Starnes’ Watchdog Security Robot is a low-cost mobile surveillance unit that could give police the edge in preventing crime.
Starnes’ goal was to develop an affordable robot that would give police the ability to keep an eye on public areas without the need for an expensive network of CCTV cameras. Watchdog needed to be robust, of course, so Starnes used a Jazzy Select power chair for the base of the robot. After removing everything except for the motors, batteries, and four primary wheels, he was left with a solid platform to build on. The original electronics were replaced with a Sabertooth dual 12A motor driver, and the robot was ready to roll.
But, movement is only half of the equation, and Starnes still needed a way to actually surveil the environment. For that, he decided on a set of four Raspberry Pi 3s paired with Pi NoIR Camera Modules, which have 5MP sensors and night vision. The idea is that the four cameras can capture a complete 360° view, and if any single camera stops functioning the others will continue to work. Watchdog is still under development, and you may find the idea of an surveillance robot creepy from the get-go, but there’s no denying that it could be useful to police.