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.


 
 

 

NASA picks top Earth data challenge ideas, opens call for climate apps

NASA has selected four ideas from the public for innovative uses of climate projections and Earth-observing satellite data. The agency also has announced a follow-on challenge with awards of $50,000 to build climate applications based on OpenNEX data on the Amazon cloud computing platform. Both challenges use the Open NASA Earth Exchange, or OpenNEX, a...
 
 
nasa-flying-lab

NASA’s flying laboratories study our world

Throughout the remainder of 2014, NASA is flying a series of airborne research campaigns from the North Pole to the South Pole and many points in between ñ to take a closer look at U.S. air quality, hurricanes in the Atlantic ...
 
 

NASA selects proposals to increase STEM education at community, technical colleges

NASA’s Office of Education will award more than $17.3 million through the National Space Grant and Fellowship Program to increase student and faculty engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at community colleges and technical schools across the United States. Each award has a two-year performance period and a maximum value of $500,000. The 35...
 

 
Courtesy photograph

Space technology experiments tested in microgravity flight

Courtesy photograph University of Central Florida students and their principal investigator observe their experiment as it reacts to the microgravity environment on NASA’s C-9 reduced-gravity experiments aircraft. NASA...
 
 
NASA photograph by Tom Tschida

Seeing double: Experimental glider, rocket undergo fit checks

NASA photograph by Tom Tschida NASA intern Erik Rossi De La Fuente (upper left) admires the one-third scale, twin-fuselage sailplane concept demonstrator that will carry and launch the Whittinghill Aerospace Mini Sprite rocket....
 
 
Image courtesy of NASA/JPL/Corby Waste

NASA selects U.S. small business technology transfer projects for further development

Image courtesy of NASA/JPL/Corby Waste An artist’s rendition of the 2007 Phoenix Mars probe during landing depicts dust particles stirred up from thrusters. CFD Research Corporation, in conjunction with the University of ...
 




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>