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.


 
 

 

Headlines December 19, 2014

News: SpaceX’s attempt to land rocket on floating barge postponed - It’s set to be one of the most groundbreaking moments in humanity’s six decades of space exploration. Obama signs $1.1 trillion spending bill into law - President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion federal spending measure into law Dec. 16, officially ending any threat of a government...
 
 

News Briefs December 19, 2014

Trial set for ex-Navy engineer in military secrets case A former Navy civilian engineer is scheduled to stand trial next summer on charges of trying to steal aircraft carrier schematics. Media outlets report that 35-year-old Mostafa Awwad of Yorktown, Va., pleaded not guilty Dec. 17 to two counts of attempted exportation of defense articles and...
 
 
Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez

Army to launch cruise missile-detecting aerostat at Aberdeen Proving Ground

Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez The Army plans to launch an aerostat, part of the “Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor,” in late December 2014. The JLENS aerostat will be tethered to the...
 

 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Jordan Castelan

AF delivers Iraqi F-16s for training in US

Air Force photograph by SrA. Jordan Castelan Iraqi air force captain Hama conducts preflight inspections while inside a new to service Iraqi F-16 Fighting Falcon Dec. 17, 2014, located at the nearby Tucson International Airport...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SSgt. Derek VanHorn

Short-notice: A new way to exercise

Air Force photograph by SSgt. Derek VanHorn Airmen from Kadena Air Base, Japan, prepare for an aeromedical evacuation exercise on a KC-135 Stratotanker Dec. 5, 2014, at Misawa Air Base, Japan. The operation was executed in supp...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Andy Wolfe

Japan, Australia to provide F-35 maintenance sites in Pacific region

Lockheed Martin photograph by Andy Wolfe An F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighter carrier variant prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 6, 2014. Japan and Australia will be sharing...
 




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>