A robot has been catching passengers not wearing masks at Dallas Love Field Airport for the past month. According to The Dallas Morning News, the robotic watchmen can also warn customers when they are breaking any rules.

Love Field Airport is testing two Security Screening Observation Towers at the airport, one located in the baggage claim area and another near the security screening areas. 

The machines, nicknamed SCOT, were installed a month ago to warn passengers and prevent them from violating airport rules. It also helps control airport security and operations in an emergency.

Lauren Rounds, spokesperson for Love Field, said the machines are being tested to determine if they can efficiently supplement current airport operations.

While the airport is not paying for the machines under test, Love Field Airport paid about $4,000 to ship them to Texas.

The robot looks a lot like the small airport service machines. They have touch screen displays with information, parking lot maps, and directions to shuttle services. However, they are much more intelligent because they can detect if people wear masks.

SCOT, more than 2 meters tall, can watch and monitor 24/7. It even has four always-on, high-resolution digital cameras, which allow for a 360° field of view and reduces personnel costs, according to Radsecurity.

SCOT can be positioned and activated to monitor and record human and vehicle activity in any environment, indoors or outdoors. The feature of its RAD (robotic assistive device), unlike other devices, is that its artificial intelligence accurately detects people.

“The units currently make scheduled and detection-based announcements directed toward our passengers and visitors,” Rounds said. “Some of these focus on reducing vehicular congestion at our curb using license plate recognition and increasing federal mask compliance using facial recognition technology while others provide standard information,” the Love Field spokeswoman told The Dallas Morning News.  

The trend of airports using facial recognition machines and other biometric data is rising. In addition, in 2019, Amazon began testing its Rekognition technology in police departments, something that did not work and was banned from use in law enforcement two years later.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend of employing these surveillance devices has been on the rise, with the excuse of protecting people and preventing contagions.

Another example is Fort Worth-based American Airlines, which uses facial recognition to check baggage. In addition, airports, such as Dallas International Airport, are partnering with the U.S. State Department to use facial recognition technology to screen passengers entering the country.

“It is concerning that an airport has installed a new system of artificial intelligence,” said Adam Schwartz, an attorney with the digital privacy rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It raises a lot of questions about what that technology is doing,” the expert added.

ROAMEO (Robust Observation Assistance Mobile Electronic Assistance Mobile Officer) is another tested robot, which they have been using as a security guard at Six Flags Over Texas amusement park in Arlington for the past three months. Another ROAMEO also began patrolling Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California, in February of this year, Fortune.com reported.

Love Field is not the only airport that began using the Robotic Assistance Devices company’s technology, said the company’s CEO and founder, Steve Reinharz. Another airport, which could not disclose its name, uses the technology to monitor its parking lots to prevent theft and break-ins, Reinharz told The Dallas Morning News.  

Privacy advocates have turned their awareness to the unregulated use of these devices and machines in public places. They believe there are few regulatory laws to control technology taking information and violating people’s privacy.

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