Tech

December 21, 2012

Robot to serve as future military’s pack mule

Tags:
Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service


The war fighter who carries up to 100 pounds of equipment on his back is expected to get relief from the cumbersome weight, officials at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency say.

Enter the robot.

Itís not just any robot. DARPAís semiautonomous Legged Squad Support System – also known as the LS3 – will carry 400 pounds of warfighter equipment, walk 20 miles at a time, and act as an auxiliary power source for troops to recharge batteries for radios and handheld devices while on patrol.

Now in trials, the ìpack muleî robot might have numerous functions, but its primary responsibility is to support the warfighter, said Army Lt. Col. Joseph K. Hitt, program manager in DARPAís tactical technology office.

ìItís about solving a real military problem: the incredible load of equipment our soldiers and Marines carry in Afghanistan today,î Hitt said. The consequences of that kind of load can be soft-tissue injuries and other complications, he added.

And as the weight of their equipment has increased, so have instances of fatigue, physical strain and degraded performance, officials have noted. Reducing the load warfighters carry has become a major point for research and development, DARPA officials say, because the increasing weight of equipment has a negative effect on war fighter readiness.

DARPAís five-year, $54 million LS3 project began in September 2009, and now is undergoing trials in the field. The LS3 must become familiar with different types of terrain, from wooded areas to deserts, and with varying weather conditions such as rain and snow, Hitt explained.

The LS3 prototype completed its first outdoor assessment in January, demonstrating its mobility by climbing and descending a hill and exercising its perception capabilities.

Following a ìhighly successfulî trial at Fort Pickett near Blackstone, Va., earlier this month, Hitt said, the robot worked with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory there and developed additional behaviors.

The robotís sensors allow it to navigate around obstacles at night, maneuver in urban settings, respond to voice commands, and gauge distances and directions.

The LS3 also can distinguish different forms of vegetation, Hitt said, when walking through fields and around bushes. With the ability to avoid logs and rocks, the LS3ís intelligent foot placement on rough terrain is a key element, he said.

The next trial will challenge the robot with the desert terrain at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base in California, and subsequent trials will follow every three months, Hitt said.

ìThe vision is a trained animal and its handler,î he said, adding that a squad leader would learn 10 basic commands to tell the robot to do such things as stop, sit, follow him tightly, follow him on the corridor, and go to specific coordinates.

ìThe technology of the robot focuses on mobility, perception and human-robot interaction,î Hitt said.

With the expectation of delivering the first LS3 to a Marine Corps squad in two years, the program culminates a decade of research and development. Yet it still needs some tweaks, Hitt acknowledged.

ìWe have to make sure the robot is smart like a trained animal,î he said. ìWe need to make sure it can follow a leader in his path, or follow in its own chosen path thatís best for itself. The interaction between the leader and the robot [must be] intuitive and natural.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

President proclaims Memorial Day as ‘Day of Prayer’

President Barack Obama May 22 saluted the service and sacrifices of America’s military members–past and present–and proclaimed Memorial Day, May 25, 2015, “as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11 a.m. of that day as a time during which people may unite in prayer....
 
 

Air Force leaders’ Memorial Day message

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III send the following Memorial Day message to the Airmen of the Air Force and their families: To the Airmen of the United States Air Force and their Families: On Memorial Day, Americans pause in solemn remembrance...
 
 

Headlines May 22, 2015

News: Second Marine killed in Hawaii Osprey crash identified - Marine Corps officials have identified the second Marine to die as a result of the May 17 MV-22B Osprey crash as Lance Cpl. Matthew J. Determan of Maricopa, Ariz.   Business: Israel defense exports plunge to seven-year low - Israeli defense sales last year plunged to their...
 

 

News Briefs May 22, 2015

Ukrainian officer hit with third charge in Russia A third charge has been filed against a Ukrainian military officer who has been behind bars in Moscow for nearly a year over the deaths of two Russian journalists in Ukraine. Nadezhda Savchenko, who worked as a spotter for Ukrainian troops fighting separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine,...
 
 
Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez

Smart-mortar will help Soldiers more effectively hit targets

Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez Nick Baldwin and Evan Young, researchers with the Armament Research Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal, Pennsylvania, discuss the 120mm Guided Enhanced Fragmentation Mortar ...
 
 

Air Force assigns new chief scientist

The Air Force announced the service’s new chief scientist to serve as a science and technology adviser to the secretary of the Air Force and the chief of staff of the Air Force, May 21. Dr. Greg Zacharias will be the 35th chief scientist and is ready to “dive in” to his new role. “I...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>