At Pompeii, A Robot Dog Is Helping Guard And Protect The Ruins

A quadruped robot named Spot is the latest piece of cutting-edge technology to come into service at Italy’s Archeological Park of Pompeii in a bid to protect the ancient site. The robotic dog has been employed by the park to roam around the ruins inspecting and monitoring the archeological structures.

With the ability to squeeze into awkward spaces and operate on various terrains, Spot has begun a monitoring operation gathering and recording data that will be harnessed for future studies and interventions. The four-legged robot has been checking up on the state of restoration and recovery works, too, to help manage the safety of the site and its workers.

Spot, who was developed by US-based Boston Dynamics, forms part of wider technological experiments to help protect the archeological park. The robot has been employed under the Smart@POMPEI project which “aspires to an intelligent, sustainable and inclusive management of the Park [and] makes use of an integrated technological solution,” according to park authorities.

While Spot sniffs out potential points of interest, a flying laser scanner has also been utilized to autonomously conduct 3D scans. Site director Gabriel Zuchtriegel maintains that such innovative technological solutions have never before been tried at Pompeii.


“Technological advances in the world of robotics, in the form of artificial intelligence and so-called autonomous systems, have produced solutions and innovations typically associated with the industrial and manufacturing world,” said Zuchtriegel, “but which until now had not found an application within archaeological sites due to the heterogeneity of environmental conditions, and the size of the site.”

Now, this technology will aid the site managers to make routine inspections and collect data on the state of preservation or restoration of certain areas. In addition, Spot will also seek out evidence of underground tunnels dug by tombaroli, or tomb raiders. These tunnels have been illegally evacuated for years to steal fragments and relics from the ruins to be sold on to art traffickers.

“Often the safety conditions within the tunnels dug by grave robbers are extremely precarious,” said Zuchtriegel, “as a consequence of which the use of a robot could signify a breakthrough that would allow us to proceed with greater speed and in total safety.”