Robotic Beast Of Burden Makes Outdoor Debut
February 9, 2012

Robotic Beast Of Burden Makes Outdoor Debut

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is previewing a mechanical beast of burden that would help lighten the load for soldiers.

The machine named AlphaDog and built at Boston Dynamics is shown in a newly released video trekking outside in the woods. The video shows the robot raising itself with a load under its own power. Then it manages to negotiate different terrains, going uphill, downhill, and through the woods avoiding obstacles like holes in the ground along the way.

The AlphaDog, also called the LS3 (Legged Squad Support System) has been designed to distinguish between trees, rocks, soldiers and other obstacles.

DARPA has plans to start 18 months worth of testing on the machine before it is deployed out into the field with Marines. Plans are for the device to carry up to 400 pounds of gear for 20 miles without refueling for 24 hours.

Slashgear notes that vision sensors will be improved and refined so that it can properly detect obstacles and autonomously correct its course as needed. There are also plans to add hearing sensors so that the robot will follow simple commands such as “stop”, “sit”, or “come here” much like a real dog.

The LS3 will also be equipped with an auxiliary power source to power radios and other handheld devices while in the field.

The purpose of this tool is to help unburden troops in the field of heavy loads. According to DARPA some soldiers carry up to 100 pounds of gear, resulting in physical strain, fatigue and degraded performance. The Army has identified physical overburden as one of its top 5 technology challenges. This new technology will help improve warfighter readiness by carrying the majority of the load.

According to Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, “If successful, this could provide real value to a squad while addressing the military´s concern for unburdening troops. LS3 seeks to have the responsiveness of a trained animal and the carrying capacity of a mule.”


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