September 11, 2023

Boston Dynamics Spot Assists LAPD In Apprehending Barricaded Subject

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On the night of August 12th, 2023, officers from the Los Angeles Police Department received an urgent call: a man armed with an assault rifle was acting erratically outside a 7-Eleven in Koreatown. When officers from Olympic Division arrived at the scene, the suspect aimed his rifle at them and nearby bystanders. They opened fire, wounding him.

The man then ran five blocks to an apartment complex near a busy pedestrian area. Officers followed in pursuit and found him barricaded behind a stairwell. He refused to come out. The area was evacuated as a K9 unit, and members of the SWAT team prepared for a standoff. Instead of immediately sending in the SWAT team — an incredibly risky approach — police sent a small tracked robot to retrieve the weapon dropped by the suspect and assess his condition. However, the robot was unable to pick up the gun.

So the SWAT team tried again, this time using their newest tool, a robotic quadruped known as Spot. Manufactured by Boston Dynamics and sold through FLYMOTION, Spot is an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) employed by a growing number of police departments around the country — LAPD being the most recent adopter. Unsurprisingly, Spot completed the task successfully. Thanks to its agility and intuitive ARM payload, Spot quickly removed the weapon so officers could move in to render aid. The standoff over, the man was taken to a hospital and reported to be in stable condition. Importantly, no officers or bystanders were injured.

While this incident ended favorably, there were many factors that could have caused a very different outcome. Not only was the suspect armed with an assault rifle, but he was also acting “erratically.” Unpredictable behavior is dangerous, more so when the individual is armed. Secondly, there was a high probability of an innocent bystander being hit by the crossfire or targeted by the suspect himself. During these situations, officers benefit from a tool that can mitigate risk for everyone involved.

Spot is one of those tools, extending the “reach” of first responders into dangerous situations without exposing them to harm. But what makes Spot an effective platform for law enforcement?

Boston Dynamics Spot’s Capabilities

Drawing inspiration from nature, Spot’s design emulates the movement of quadruped animals to ensure exceptional agility and mobility across various terrains and environments. But that’s only the start of a long list of benefits.

Intuitive Operation:

One of Spot's standout features is its ease of use. A platform that’s difficult to operate isn’t likely to be used often, regardless of its capability. Fortunately, Spot’s user interface is intuitive, providing its operators with easy access to automated movements, a 360-degree view of the environment, and many other visual aids.

Mobility and Agility:

Spot's four-legged design allows it to navigate challenging landscapes, including urban environments, stairs, rocky terrain, and confined spaces. This mobility is crucial in situations where traditional vehicles or even humans might struggle to access or move around.

Payload Versatility:

Spot's modular design allows for the integration of various payloads and sensors based on specific operational needs. This means Spot can be equipped with tools like visible and thermal cameras, lights, microphones, and even manipulator arms, enhancing its functionality in a wide range of scenarios.


One payload that’s crucial to the successful operation of Spot is FLYMOTION’s Ridgeback. Consisting of an embedded military-grade radio module on the robot and a radio connected to the controller, Ridgeback drastically improves range and penetration over the standard Wi-Fi link. This capability is crucial for operating Spot in complex RF environments like subway tunnels, concrete buildings, and dense metropolitan centers. You can learn more about what Ridgeback can do here.

Data Collection and Analysis:

Spot is equipped with a variety of sensors, including 360-degree cameras and LIDAR, enabling it to collect and transmit valuable visual and environmental data to command staff. This data can aid in decision-making and threat assessment, leading to better-informed responses.

Communication Bridge:

Spot can serve as a communication bridge between law enforcement officers and potentially dangerous subjects. By relaying messages and instructions through Spot's speakers and microphone, officers can establish contact while maintaining an appropriate standoff distance.

Training: The Key to Success

A tool — no matter how capable it is — is only as good as the operator behind it. This is certainly true for Spot, whose intuitive operation may fool some into thinking that training is unnecessary. However, as any member of public safety would know, successful operations require significant preparation. In fact, just a week prior to the Koreatown incident, FLYMOTION met with LAPD’s SWAT team to train them on their brand-new robot.

This regimen, perfected over the course of numerous Spot trainings, follows a progression that begins with a classroom overview of the hardware and software. Once users understand capabilities and limitations, they begin a series of task-based exercises to build familiarity. The training then culminates in several scenario-based exercises that simulate conditions similar to what the robot and operator may find themselves in during an operation.

LAPD’s training, of course, paid off. Officers successfully deployed the robot and prevented any injuries during an otherwise dangerous incident.

The team’s success also highlights the value of private/public partnerships, as the initiative to bring Spot to LAPD was a multi-year effort. Combining public safety and industry expertise, FLYMOTION guided their efforts to use this new platform, providing the necessary consultation, procurement, and training for the SWAT team. Deploying cutting-edge tech truly is a collaborative effort.

Applications in Law Enforcement

Spot's capabilities have found numerous applications within law enforcement, revolutionizing the way agencies handle various challenges and operational scenarios. Here are some ways Spot is being utilized by police departments:

SWAT Operations:

As demonstrated by the LAPD, Spot is ideal for handling high-risk tactical situations like armed and barricaded subjects. It can be deployed to assess dangerous situations, provide real-time video feeds to the command center, and even interact with potential threats, minimizing the risk to officers' lives.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD):

When dealing with potentially explosive devices, Spot can be equipped with specialized sensors and manipulator arms to identify, handle, and move hazardous materials or devices. More importantly, it does so with incredible stability, as it adapts to uneven terrain far better than wheeled or tracked robots.

Search and Rescue Missions:

Spot's ability to navigate challenging terrains makes it a valuable tool for search and rescue missions. Whether it's locating victims in a collapsed building or inspecting disaster-stricken environments, Spot's sensors and cameras can provide critical information to incident commanders, as seen in this recent FDNY response.

HAZMAT Incidents:

During hazardous material incidents, Spot can be equipped with CBRNe and multi-gas sensors to gather data without exposing officers to potentially toxic substances. This capability is essential for evaluating the situation, formulating a response plan, and minimizing risks to both first responders and the public.


While the incident outside the Koreatown 7-Eleven is easy to overlook as another news story it highlights the crucial role of technology in modern law enforcement. Spot offers a safe option to approach challenging scenarios, leaving more dangerous tactics as a last resort. And as unpredictable situations become more frequent, the value of technology like Spot will only grow for first responders.

FLYMOTION is proud to have supported the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of Spot and we stand ready to assist other agencies to employ transformative technology.

Interested in Spot? Contact our team to learn how we can help!

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