The new security guard doesn't need sleep. It doesn't need a bathroom break. It won't be distracted by cellphones. It doesn't get tired.
It's like RoboCop without the gun.
It's autonomous robotic security, and it's going to be used to guard pot farms in California. The first robots are rolling out in the coming months at Southern California marijuana farms in Desert Hot Springs, said Todd Kleperis, the CEO of Hardcar Security, which is leasing the robots to several marijuana farmers in the region.
"It gives a visible, offensive tool to growers," Kleperis said. "When you have something coming up on you at a high speed and it's blaring horns and it's screaming at you and telling you it's calling the police, it's a pretty big deterrent."
Outfitted with two-way communication, a camera system, a siren and GPS, the Sharp INTELLOS Automated Unmanned Ground Vehicle is ready for service. At nearly 5 feet long, 3 feet wide and standing just over 4 feet, it looks like a police bomb squad robot, but it's white and goes just 3 mph. It'll go just about anywhere and it can handle just about any cold-or-hot weather environment, all the while streaming back video to a command center with human security guards who can respond in an emergency.
The belief is that it won't put humans in harm's way in the high-risk marijuana industry that still operates largely with cash because weed remains illegal under federal law. Each unit can cost up to $300,000, but there are leasing options for companies interested in using them.
The idea is the brainchild of Kleperis, a U.S. Army veteran and his partner, Jeffrey Breier, a former cop. Kleperis pitched the idea for robot patrols at pot farms at a meeting with Sharp executives in November. They initially were cool to the idea. But when Kleperis told them the move could put them ahead of the pack in the cannabis industry, they were receptive.
"They loved it," Kleperis said. "I flew one of the executives out to (Desert Hot Springs) and Jeff showed him the area. All 200 parcels had been sold. Only one was up and going, and we asked them to demo it there. They said yes, and the rest is history."
Five marijuana growers have signed on for robots: three in Desert Hot Springs, a fourth in Santa Barbara and a fifth in Calexico.
Greta Carter, who's set to open the indoor pot farm Freedom Flower in Desert Hot Springs this summer, just signed the paperwork and issued deposits for a robot.
"A guard can only be at one spot. After 10 hours it gets a little monotonous," she said. "I like the idea of using equipment that's not going to get tired, experience fatigue or heat and not be subjected to exhaustion and monotony."
The robot can do a lot. But it has limits.
You can't get Wi-Fi everywhere, and you might get 12 hours on full battery charge at most. They're not meant to replace humans.
Human security guard Patrick McCluan, the chief operations officer of Front Sight Security, which employs 146 guards to protect medical marijuana businesses and apartment complexes in the Los Angeles area and Las Vegas and Florida, is cautiously optimistic.
"They're definitely another set of eyes," he said.