February 7th, 2012
04:36 PM ET

Meet the mule-bot

By Jennifer Rizzo

The military's tech incubator has revealed its latest effort to perfect a robotic beast of burden.

The LS3, which has been in development since 2010, is being built to carry heavy loads for troops in the field, and the Defense Department's research and development arm has for the first time released footage of the new mule-like robot in action.

Designed to carry 400 pounds of equipment, travel up to 20 miles at a time, and move at speeds as fast as 10 mph, the LS3 is meant to fit into a Marine or Army unit in a "natural way," the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said in a news release.

"DARPA seeks to demonstrate that a LS3 can carry a considerable load from dismounted squad members, follow them through rugged terrain and interact with them in a natural way, similar to the way a trained animal and its handler interact," the release said.

The agency had previously designed a similar four-legged robot called BigDog, which demonstrated to the research group that a "legged" design would be able to handle harsh terrain.

"BigDog was about mobility. Can we have a four-legged system navigate terrain the way soldiers navigate," said Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, the manager of the agency's LS3 program. "We took BigDog's legs and put them on a platform three times the size and gave it eyes so that it could see its terrain."

The LS3 is smarter and stronger than its predecessor, which was able to carry only 100 pounds. Onboard sensors allow LS3 to perceive obstacles in its environment, differentiating between a rock and a tree for example, and give the robot the capability to plan a different route.

In a video released by the agency, the four-legged robot is seen following a person, navigating hilly terrain with relative ease, sidestepping over rocks and getting up from a sitting position.

The robot is also being developed to have the ability to recognize basic voice commands, like "stop," "come here," "sit," or "go over there," Hitt said.

Starting in July, the robot will go through an 18-month experimentation phase in which it will be used by various Army and Marine units in the United States.

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Filed under: DARPA • Defense Spending • Military • Technology
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. new era italia

    I loro corpi sono lucente Shuiguang, bagnato, sembrano essere un lungo ammollo in corpi d'acqua della stessa.
    new era italia http://www.neweramilano.it/

    November 27, 2013 at 11:57 pm | Reply
  2. BigRed

    The best combination of creepiness and stealth imaginable.

    February 8, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  3. ranger 830

    Seems a little noisey to me!!! I for one would keep as far from it as I possibly could,Things like this tend to be bullet magnets! You know every swinging Taliban johnson is gonna want to have a shot at it LOL!!!!

    February 8, 2012 at 10:23 am | Reply
  4. ranger 830

    Wtf over..... Im all for real mules!!!! Seem to work just fine for the Afghans!!!!!

    February 8, 2012 at 10:19 am | Reply
  5. Tsgt Smako

    It would be cheaper to use real mules, but you would have to use a lot of them to carry the same load. You could put a "Real Doll" attachment on the back so the Marines would have a little companionship in the moonlight hours and it would work out. Is it cheaper than calling in a helo to deliver supplies?

    February 8, 2012 at 10:10 am | Reply
  6. ma & pa

    gottagitoneathose yeahhhhh...When the military thinks it's too decrepit to be of use, could they retire at least one to this sunny central northern US farm? as long as it doesn't bite, kick, fall on us, get stuck in the snow or chase our critters we could use it. where's a saddle to fit that thing? maybe place a lazy-boy and recline in ease and enjoy the view.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:42 am | Reply
  7. Warrior

    Its called SOLAR power AMIGO!

    February 8, 2012 at 1:28 am | Reply
  8. julio enrique cisneros banuelos lopez

    I couldnt keep from laughing out loud when this thing began playing.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:51 am | Reply
  9. Bob Levan

    Very impressive but they have to work on that noise! BTW LS3 follows the lead marine eveywhere right? What if they both come under fire? I am sure that that marine would not appreciate to have a 2-ton beast jumps into the same foxhole than he does. And how about fuel? Would a second LS3 be needed just to carry the fuel? Or can DARPA teach LS3 to eat MRE or better: grass. Then would it be cheaper to send the Marines a real mule?

    February 7, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Reply

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