DARPA lays down 10 million for silent, bulletproof robot mule

Credit: DARPA

LS3 (Legged Squad Support System), which was designed as a rough terrain pack mule capable of hauling 400 pounds of supplies over 20 miles at a time on a single tank of fuel, is an extremely appealing addition to the military. Using computer vision, the four-legged robot autonomously follows its human leader and can be programmed to travel to a designated location using GPS.

Though the LS3 can also last a whole 24 hour mission, the current model is distressingly noisy, thanks to a gas-powered hydraulic pump. Also, although the LS3 is bulletproof over most of its body, one crucial place isn't: the head area, where many of its sensors are situated. With an additional $10 million in funding, DARPA hopes the robot will eventually be immune to small arms fire over its entire body.

Testing for the DARPA and US Marine Corps funded robot began in 2012 and is slated to continue for 2 more years, though DARPA has given Boston Dynamics until March 31, 2015 to add the much-needed stealth and bulletproofing features for a final product. That means the robotics firm might have to find a non-gas energy source for the LS3 and a way to stop it from stomping around like Donkey Kong — but hey, with $10 million, we'd like to think that anything is possible.

Boston Dynamics, via Defense

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