DARPA's CHEETAH smashes legged-robot speed record


March 6, 2012

DARPA's quadruped CHEETAH robot has broken the land speed record for legged robots by reaching a gallop of 18 mph on a treadmill

DARPA's quadruped CHEETAH robot has broken the land speed record for legged robots by reaching a gallop of 18 mph on a treadmill

It's been a very little over a year since Boston Dynamics was awarded a contract to develop a high-speed robotic quadruped by DARPA, but already the defense tech research agency's investment is bearing fruit, having announced that its CHEETAH galloping quadruped robot has broken the land speed record for robots with legs.

A video released by DARPA appears to show CHEETAH running on a treadmill at speeds of up to 18 mph (29 km/h), a speed which smashes the previous record of 13.1 mph (21 km/h) with an improvement of more than a third. The toppled champion is MIT's Planar Biped, whose alternating gait set the prior standard in 1989.

Though the robot might more resemble a frightened rabbit when galloping at full tilt, DARPA claims CHEETAH has more in common with the cheetah than name alone, taking its cues from the big cat and other fast-running animals by flexing its back to increase stride and speed.

One thing to note is that CHEETAH is currently dependent on off-board hydraulics for power (hence the need for a treadmill). Considering this fact, as well as that running seems to be CHEETAH's only ability, "robot" is being used in a loose sense by DARPA, unable as the machine is to sense its environment or act autonomously. However, it's hoped that an untethered free-running prototype will be tested later in the year, so CHEETAH is taking steps towards autonomy.

The military hopes that improved robot mobility will enable robots to assist across a broader range of missions, and DARPA's M3 program (Maximum Mobility and Manipulation) of which CHEETAH is apart is working towards precisely that.

Of course, CHEETAH has some way to go before it challenges the record of its namesake, the cheetah - itself the land speed record holder for animals, reaching speeds of up to 70 mph (113 km/h) over short stretches.

You can see the CHEETAH in motion and breaking records in the video below.

Source: DARPA

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

oh God... now they can chase you...

Gabriel Grove

I wonder what would happen if you added a four-foot tail to that. And reversed the direction of the leg joints. A cat's hip rotates much farther than that, and it's ankle extends much farther, all the way behind. Completely different kind of gait.

Jim Parker

Imagine your car getting chased by one of these.

Denis Klanac

It would be very scary. Until its extension cord pulled out of the wall.....

When I was a Ladde I read a book called "Fahrenheit 451" (Ray Bradbury 1953) - and this creature comes right out of that, pursuit robots called "The Mechanical Hound" designed to kill people with lethal injections...

Poisons that made them laugh while they died - all broadcast on TV.

The crime? - reading books.

Buy the book.....

Powerful reading.

Mr Stiffy

Mr Stiffy,, I agree, Guy Montag was great, and Oskar Werner was well cast for the movie, and yes the book was of course better, Regards, Bill

Bill Bennett

Agree with Jim Parker. Not flexible enough. But this is 1st version. Next versions will be more fast, powerful and flexible. An autonomous Quadrobot fitted with GPS, Cameras, Radars and Guns will be lethal combination. This is the baby version of Decepticons in transformers.

Jay Temkar

Maybe if it looked less demonic it wouldn't have to run so fast to catch up to those running in fear.


If the legs on the right had their knee bend in the other direction. it wouldn't look like it's moving backwards. Is this for testing armour too?

Dawar Saify

i want to ride it.. wee

Jay Finke

is that guy running backwards? ... that's the first thing I would fix.

Albert Sudonim

It would be great for the army to use to be front line soldiers

Steven Randolph

Not a match for my $500 electric bike just yet I am afraid. See you at 70kph...


We are getting nearer and nearer to robots. We will purchase them as we do vehicles, each model better than the last. Imagine your own helper. We will all sit at home while it does all the work. When our employer asks for more output, we will all trade them in for a faster one. Then the greedy employer will get his own and we will blame Robots for taking our job.

Life goes round and round.



Even if it doesn't need it, put a head on that thing. A saddle would be nice too.

Larry Hoffman

Morph that monster with an updated hexakopter (Feb'10). Run it through your worst neighborhood with a flyby featuring Minime hanging below and screaming his little heart out. The need for future curfews end! "Leon, get home before dark or the Cheetabott will get you." Yes Ma'am!!


One more step on the path to AMEE. See "Red Planet" from 2000.

Gregg Eshelman

It's running backwards!

Joe Gichuki

i can imagine later versions of this being equipped with infrared and x-ray to help rescue workers during natural disasters; but i think the military would rather use them to resupply isolated/stranded troops with food or ammo. I can't imagine it being equipped with heavy weapons of its own but if it was given a weapon i think it would have to be something like a sub machine gun or two mounted in the head so that the CHEETAH could still run while firing ,or a set of flairs or smoke grenades to cause a distraction. i also imagine these robots running more than 18 mph and being able to swim through rivers and run up 60 and 70 degree cliff walls. all that stuff is probably a decade away but its still interesting to think about it.

Ariel Gonzalez

the thing is running to the left so it is running"backwards"

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