The stadium’s new drone dog, named “Benzie,” after the stadium, assists security workers in completing what Overstreet called their more “dull, mundane and dangerous” tasks. Mercedes-Benz Stadium security personnel have historically patrolled the stadium at night in case of emergency, but the robot will now complete that surveillance with a mobile body camera.
The robot is directed by a driver from Asylon Robotics, the company behind the dog, at all times. The driver can see what the robot sees and is able to alert in-person security in case of a disturbance.
“Prior to the drone dog, in-house 24/7 security was performing these checks,” Overstreet said. “Now, the dog never gets tired, doesn’t take breaks, and we still have a human element of responding to issues. This is just an enhancement to the whole process.”
The robot weighs about 85 pounds and has sensors that do not allow it to come within two inches of another object, Young said. At night, it patrols every 30 minutes, and spends the rest of the time in its “dog house,” or charging station.
Overstreet said that the robot’s new tasks and capabilities will not lead to a decrease in the number of security employees. Instead, he said, human capabilities will be redirected to more necessary and complex tasks.
Plus, the robot helps significantly decrease safety risks for humans, Young said. Michael Quiroga, chief revenue officer for Asylon, said utilizing the dog’s long-range vision and ability to see in the dark is key for his drivers.
“The human cognitive load is meant for higher level tasks,” Quiroga said. “We want to help people offload the dirty, dangerous tasks. Highly trained operators can now sit inside in the AC instead of walking around in messy terrain.”
Though to Young’s knowledge Mercedes-Benz is one of the first stadiums to implement a robot like this one, they are being used across industries to minimize risks and maximize human cognition. For example, Eric Wetzel, an associate professor at Auburn University, works on construction projects with a similar robot.
The dog is able to roam around dangerous construction terrain, and its sensors and infrared vision allow it to collect data more effectively than a human could, Wetzel said. Meanwhile, Wetzel and his colleagues are able to spend more time interpreting data.
“There are three strong reasons to deploy a robot like this one,” Wetzel said. “In dangerous scenarios, for tasks that are repetitive and hard on the human body, and in areas of labor shortage or productivity stagnation.”
Quiroga said the future of both construction and security lies in technologies like robot dogs.
“The robot is perfect for something like patrolling the graveyard shift back and forth,” Quiroga said. “Looking for that 1% anomaly is where technology and robotics come in, so the security team can leverage their own personal abilities.”
Asylon started looking into building security robots after a drone flew onto White House grounds in 2015. The company wanted to create an aerial robot that could survey security threats from above and a ground robot to survey from below, Quiroga said.
A quadruped –– a robot on four legs –– ended up being the preferred design for ground surveillance.
“Wheeled robots, they had tremendous benefits in that they have a lot of speed, they are not limited on unstructured terrain,” Quiroga said. “Track robots, which are like a tank type deal, are good at going into really challenging topography but have limited mobility. They are heavy and costly, so this is much better for somewhere like Mercedes-Benz.”
The dog in use at the stadium is able to travel up and down the stadium’s ramps, working on both grassy terrain and smooth pavement, according to Quiroga. It’s also able to withstand conditions that are not optimal for humans, he added, including intense heat and pouring rain ––– both of which are common in Atlanta.
Plus, Overstreet added, the fact the robot is considered a “dog” makes it a fun mascot for construction sites and security teams.
“I know it sounds weird, but I think the dog has a personality,” Young said. “We show the dog off around our stadium. Some people’s reaction is to stop, some kids take off running, but everyone asks questions.”
Mercedes-Benz Stadium first tested a pilot of the dog in May 2022. While there are no immediate plans to purchase a second robot, Quiroga said he expects to see the use of both robots and artificial intelligence expand in the security industry in the coming years.
“Innovation moves at the speed of imagination,” he said. “So going into 2024, it’s the year of automation. We are absolutely seeing a boom in security automation… and a lot of that will continue to come to light.”
Similar robots have been predicted to “live” as long as 30 years. Young and Overstreet said the stadium is excited to look after its new pet. The fact it doesn’t bark or bite is just an added bonus.