@Elizabeth: Indeed because if you provide full control to robots then things will go out of hand. The chances of risking everything is really high. Human interaction is important and the majority of the input should be from humans.
Yes, AandY, it seems this tunnel exploration can be very dangerous for humans and is, in fact, a great use for these types of robots. This is exactly where I think robotic development should be going--supplementing human actions when they are unsafe, dangerous or uncomfortable for humans to do. This can allow the people who would normally do those actions to be repurposed and perform other tasks, and perhaps even create more efficiencies in organizations.
This is indeed a very good application for robotics and it certainly is in the area classified as recommended for robot use. But there are other ways to keep the tunnels from being used for smuggling, with the easiest being to dump an ounce of methyl sulphite in one tunnel. The stink is so very awful that nobody could stand to smell it long enough to get a lethal dose. It would provide an additional advantage in that it could make it quite simple for authorities to locate the far end of the tunnel, since the smell would be easy to detect and impossible to hide.
I agree with you guys that this is very good use of robots. Keeping aside all the questions about robots taking the place of humans in many tasks, this task is very realistically delegated to robots. Besides all these benefits of deploying robots for border patrolling, there is another benefit. Robots can be more vigilant in those rugged areas. Finally there is always the risk of one of those rough tunnels collapsing.
Thanks for the comments, Chuck and naperlou. Yes, Chuck, I imagine it is no fun to go and explore these tunnels. From the research I did it sounds pretty unpleasant, with agents encountering things like rats, sewage, drug needles etc. etc. The robots are a great alternative, I agree, and this seems to be the type of use where the use of robots can really be of service to the jobs humans would otherwise perform. Even if the human agents still need to go into the tunnels, at least the robots can let them know beforehand what they will encounter.
I agree, naperlou. I recently saw a photo of a border patrol agent examining a bathtub with a false bottom that provides access to the drainage tunnels. My guess is that the agents aren't very anxious to crawl down into those tunnels.
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