A fully autonomous security vehicle will patrol the perimeter of a Western Australian prison — performing the work of two prison guards.
- A driverless, autonomous vehicle will patrol the perimeter WA’s newest prison
- The vehicle, known as the AxV will do the work of two human guards
- The Corrective Services Minister says it will free up humans for other duties
The robotic vehicle, known as the AxV, will be tested over coming months at Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison – Western Australia’s newest – which opened three years ago.
Perth-based Stealth Technologies is collaborating with US software and aerospace giant Honeywell and the Department of Justice on the trial.
WA Corrective Services Commissioner Tony Hassall said the technology would release prison officers to “perform other essential duties”.
The trial has been welcomed by WA Prison Officers’ Union Secretary Andy Smith.
“At this point in time, we haven’t been consulted about the particular machine they intend to bring in,” Mr Smith said.
The developers claim the electric vehicle does the work of two prison officers, who check the perimeter fence three times a day.
Airborne drones also being developed
The security vehicle has a lithium battery that can support eight hours’ drive time and is equipped with multi-angle, high definition cameras, night vision, a collision avoidance system, incident alert lighting and a two-way intercom.
The integration of airborne drones with the AxV is also being developed, with Stealth Technologies expected to complete a prototype before the end of the year.
Strategic Elements managing director Charles Murphy declined an interview request, saying it was inappropriate to comment before the trial is completed.
Autonomous robots were first used in Korean prisons in 2011.
Patrols ‘integral’ for security
The perimeter of the prison, which measures 1.4km according to Google Earth, is already protected by motion sensors and a large network of closed-circuit security cameras.
Union Secretary Andy Smith described daily perimeter patrols as “integral” in maintaining security.
“It’s (patrolling the perimeter) an integral part of observing what might be thrown over fences or over walls, so if a piece of machinery can do that job and perhaps patrol more regularly than we might be able to as prison officers, then obviously we’d be supportive of that.”
Dr Carla Boehl, a Perth-based civil and mining engineer who has worked extensively in the field of automation, said the technology could have global significance.
“I’m thinking straight away of developing countries where the rates in prisons are very high and the prison guards are exposed to high risk every day, so a low cost, safe alternative just seems the way to go,” she said.
She said advances in technology will lead to improvements in safety, efficiency and data collection.
“The first autonomous trucks in mining were in 1995,” she said.