HRI & BlackDog: Wireless Robot Control Case Study

BlackDog Robotics – HRI Case Study

Greetings from Humanistic Robotics, Inc. and we hope this finds you well mid-winter! We’ve been really pleased to work with NPC Robotics and their BlackDog Robotics division for the past couple of years as they introduce a really capable robot to the world. See below for the whole story, and all the best to you!

Starting as a company that rebuilt motors for electric wheelchairs, NPC Robotics has grown to be one of the U.S. military and law enforcement’s most trusted suppliers of motion control technology. One of their most recent creations, a robot that could identify and disable IEDs, has now taken on a civilian role and is being used by first-responders. This robot was developed by NPC’s BlackDog Modular Robotics division.

Because it could be easily reprogrammed and easy enough to use that anyone who ever played a video game could quickly understand it, the Safe Remote Control System (SRCS) from Humanistic Robotics was the perfect controller for the job, using something like some formidable industrial pointing devices here…

A military robot making a difference in civilian life
Today, many SWAT teams have robots that are used very infrequently due to limitations that make them completely useless at times. The Boston Marathon bombing is a perfect example. The camera arm on that robot couldn’t extend high enough to see inside the boat where the suspect was hiding.That’s what makes the robot from BlackDog Robotics a better alter

Michael Garrod at the BlackDog Robotics booth

native for first responders. Initially built for the U.S Army to identify IEDs, this security robot offers the flexibility to change out different components quickly and easily. For example, you could remove an arm and replace it with a camera. Or add a hook device to help remove an injured person from a dangerous situation.Of course, when you have a variety of functions on a robot, operating it could get quite complicated. According to Michael Garrod, Chief Technical Officer of NPC and BlackDog Robotics, “One of the main reasons we chose the Safe Remote Control System (SRCS) from Humanistic Robotics is that when you hook up different pieces of equipment to the robot, you can easily reconfigure the buttons on the controller to operate whatever you need. And off you go.”

Most operators have been training to use this robot since they were kids.

Some SWAT teams have to go through a month’s worth of training to learn how to control the robots they currently have. But with the Safe Remote Control System (SRCS), anyone who’s ever played Xbox® or Playstation® could pick it up and know how to control the basic functions of the robot right away. Michael points out, “The robot never becomes a 200 lb. lump of metal because the specially trained operator isn’t available to drive it.”

Finding the right controller was a lot harder than you’d think.
BlackDog Robotics originally tried RC controllers, which were incredibly unreliable. “There was no range whatsoever. They couldn’t keep a signal from behind a plastic dumpster” Mike continues, “Plus, some were so complex it was difficult for an untrained person to figure out what all the different buttons on the controller actually did.”BlackDog Robotics goal was to keep everything easy-to-use with no need for training, so they continued searching for a controller that would fit the bill. “We even considered having one of our engineers find the pieces and build our own.” Mike remembers, “It was such a massive relief when we found this controller from Humanistic Robotics.”

Easy to use unless you’re not authorized to use it.
When operating in high-risk situations, the security connection between the controller and the receiver is very important. “With the Safe Remote Control System (SRCS), operators have the ability to set the robot dead if they’re having control issues or if the robot was being attacked.” Michael continues, “The abandonment feature is also very important. If no one touches the controller for 5 minutes it goes to e-stop and won’t start again without a special code. So if you’re not supposed to be operating this robot, you won’t be.”

Who says watching TV is a waste of time?

A British TV show called The Thunderbirds was actually the inspiration for BlackDog Robotics security robot. A fictional top-secret organization, they used technologically advanced rescue equipment to save people from mortal danger.


To learn more about BlackDog Robotics, visit

To learn more about Humanistic Robotics, Inc (HRI), visit