Pack mule robot would haul gear in rough terrain

A robotic four-legged robot that resembles a pack mule is being developed by Boston Dynamics for possible use by U.S. troops in terrain unsuitable for vehicles, reports ABC News.

The robot, which would haul gear for soldiers and Marines, faces up to two more years of tests and experiments, the story said. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has set the bar high for the pack mule robot. 
“A legged robot can unburden dismounted squad members by carrying their gear, autonomously following them through rugged terrain, and interpreting verbal and visual commands,” DARPA said in a news release about the project.

Boston Dynamics has taken much of the inspiration for the robot, known as the Legged Support System (LS3), from the animal kingdom, company officials said in the story.

Two years ago the company came up with Big Dog, the initial design for a gear-carrying robot. But DARPA wanted a bigger, more agile robot capable of carrying more cargo than the initial prototype. To achieve such a goal, DARPA and the Marine Corps awarded Boston Dynamics a $32 million contract to build a new robot.

LS3 weighs 800 pounds and is capable of carrying 400 pounds of cargo for 20 miles, the story said. It has a camera sensor system that provides the “eyes” it needs to make decisions about where it should go in difficult terrain. LS3 also will have “ears” that enable it to respond to simple commands.
The robotic pack mules will now undergo two more years of field testing with the military that will be topped off with a Marine Corps Advanced Warfighting Experiment where the LS3 will be embedded with a Marine squad for an operational exercise, the story said.


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