Legged Squad Support System Monster BigDog Robot

A bigger BigDog robot is on order from Boston Dynamics. DARPA wants a new "robotic mule" to carry gear for soldiers in the field.

( Legged Squad Support System robot )

The robot, called Legged Squad Support System, or LS3, will be able to navigate rough terrain, carrying 180 kilograms (~400 pounds) of load and enough fuel for missions covering 32 kilometers (~20 miles) and lasting 24 hours.

Boston Dynamics says LS3 won't need a driver, because it will automatically follow a human leader using computer vision or travel to designated locations using sensors and GPS.

Building the robot will take 30 months and cost US $32 million. The first LS3 prototype is expected to debut in 2012.

"If LS3 can offload 50 lbs [23 kg] from the back of each solider in a squad, it will reduce warfighter injuries and fatigue and increase the combat effectiveness of our troops," Marc Raibert, president of Boston Dynamics and principal investigator for the program, said in a statement.

DARPA identifies these key program themes for LS3:

  1. Quadruped platform development:
    Design of a deployable walking platform with sufficient payload capacity, range, endurance, and low noise signature for dismounted squad support, while keeping weight and volume scaled to the squad level.
  2. Walking control:
    Develop control techniques that allow walking, trotting, and running/ bounding and capabilities to jump obstacles, cross ditches, recover from disturbances, and other discrete mobility features.
  3. User Interface (to include perception technologies):
    The ability for the vehicle to perceive and traverse its immediate terrain environment autonomously with simple methods of Marine/Soldier control.
SF readers have been waiting for quadruped robotic helpers, thanks to Anthony Boucher's 1951 short story The Quest for Saint Aquin:

He... took his first opportunity to inspect the robass in full light. He admired the fast-plodding, articulated legs, so necessary since roads had degenerated... the side wheels that could be lowered into action if surface conditions permitted; and above all the smooth black mound that housed the electronic brain - the brain that stored commands and data concerning ultimate objectives and made its own decisions on how to fulfill those commands in view of those data...
(Read more about the robass)

From DARPA (PDF) via IEEE.

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