DARPA advances LS3 quadruped robot program


February 18, 2010

LS3 is conceived as an autonomous support pack-robot for ground troops (Image: Boston Dynamics)

LS3 is conceived as an autonomous support pack-robot for ground troops (Image: Boston Dynamics)

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Walking quadrupeds are being cast to play a major role in the rapidly unfolding age of robotics. The platform promises versatility far beyond that of wheeled-vehicles and will undoubtedly find applications in a wide variety of fields. Not surprisingly, the development of quadrupeds is being driven by the military and DARPA has recently boosted its efforts by awarding Boston Dynamics $32 million for the prototype phase of its Legged Squad Support System (LS3) program.

Boston Dynamics, an early leader in the quadruped field with its Big Dog project, has been engaged to deliver trade studies, detailed design work, and initial prototypes of the LS3 over a 30 month period.

LS3 is conceived as an autonomous support pack-robot for ground troops that can carry 400 pounds or more of payload, sustain itself for 24 hours and cover 20 miles in almost any kind of terrain.

To achieve this versatility over terrain where wheeled vehicles can't go, the goal is to develop different gaits - walking, trotting, and running or bounding - that enable the robot to negotiate ditches and rocky slopes.

The robot wont require human intervention, instead it will follow a leader using computer vision or travel to designated locations using GPS and other sensors.

Boston Dynamics is partnering with Bell Helicopter, AAI Corporation, Carnegie Mellon University, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Woodward HRT.

The program is a joint effort between DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO) and the U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Lab (MCWL).

The first "walk out" for the LC3 is scheduled for 2012.


Good video of an earlier design of big dog. Sounds like it has an RC motor hooked up to a generator.


Looks like something out of Star Wars

Gruph Norgle

Lets just hope one of these things doesn\'t come looking for me in the apocalypse

David Campos

I can see why the SF started using mules. Real mules. They are \'green\' since they eat local vegetation and, if things go bad, they can be eaten.

If you look at the historical studies, lightening the load has marginal payoff.

The USARIEM hip-mounted cart was effective & feasible, but not sexy (Harman, E.A. and P.N. Frykman. Heavy load carriage performance correlates: backpack vs. individual towed trailer. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 27:S136, 1995).

The better approach is how to resupply units in contact. The new remotely piloted helicopter RPV is one solution. There may be other low-tech solutions (look at expanding the TRIADS concept or remotely piloted parachutes).


A mechanical mule? It seems to me the complexity involved in making the legs work, in balancing the vehicle, and in developing the guidance system makes it impractical compared to a simple, lightweight tracked robot vehicle (or forget the autonomous feature and use a human operator), or a flesh-and-blood pack animal (inherently semi-autonomous already, with balance and guidance system already integrated).

William Lanteigne

This thing is high tech but is designed to do a low tech and extremely time consuming sort of job that is normally carried out by a First Sergeant and his henchmen. Things like carrying water to a detachment, along with some beans and bullets for example. On the ground, fighting positions tend not to be right beside the road for some reason, and there is always a need for heavy gruntwork. Back in my infantry days, I would have loved to have had six or eight of these things hanging out to do my bidding rather than having the headache of getting vehicles and bodies and briefing them on the mission, then making sure they had maps and an idea. Easier to hang a couple of 5 gallon cans and two boxes of MRE\'s and punch in some grid coordinates.


An expensive and complex solution to a simple problem. Taliban must be laughing their butts off. The maintenance along on this thing (in the field) would be a killer.

\'I bet\' some smart engineer (on the bad guys side) could develop a pulse microwave generator to disable it or control it, capture it and send it back to home base with a nasty weapon attached.

I like all the prior comments - very good.

\'I could see\' such a device being used in industry - such as mines (safety issues), search and rescue, maybe even police work.

Facebook User

There seems to be too much taxpayers money being wasted on crazy ideas like this. As others have pointed out, why not use pack animals which are perfectly suited to the terrain? They cost very little. The idea of using mini helicopters for re-supply is good (cwolf88) Rolling barrels (think: garden roller, which could be power asssisted) filled with water, food, ammo, is a suggestion.


The Taliban is going to surrender to robots if they can, or every last one of them is going to be killed by robots in the very near future. If I were Omar/Ben Laden, I would issue each fighter a large pure white flag. Maybe they can make trouble in our prison camps? Hot meals and life vs. indiscriminate carnage: that is their immediate choice. Robots are incredibly fast, merciless, and nobody cares if you shoot them. Nobody will prosecute them if they kill everything, either. Not even dogs will survive them. Taliban! Drop your weapons, now. Return to your families and farms right away, or there will be no hope for you.


Yup, right out of starwars! Even the big elephant-looking quadrapods with the pulse cannons had a driver/shooter up on top though! I agree with most of the previous comments. Quit spending taxpayer money on such a stupid idea and use pack animals and/or rc helicopters! Vietnam saw all kinds of technology defeated by a resourceful enemy. Enough already! I am not totaly anti-tech though. For example, the intelligent dart sensors that call in a mortor. That, I thought was a great idea and no mines to clear after a war!

Will, the tink

is there a hidden room where crazies come up with ludicrous ideas designed to rip the American taxpayers off ?. the trouble with hitec in the field is who comes to fix it ?,,, deerrr,,,,,silly me, of course a robot dressed as a fitter complete with back to front baseball cap


looks like a fair few rattles are being whizzed out of prams here! It\'s cheaper to develop stuff like this now than it will be in the future, improvements will be made along the way and we may end up like the poster above said as being in a situation where we don\'t have to send men. It would be advisable to have a few of these things capturable for the intelligence they could report, the rest could be detonated remotely. I can\'t see why they aren\'t already booby trapping the mountains in Afghanistan just dozing until some hapless insurgent comes around picking his nose. Chances are that the later versions will have legs and tracks for when one or the other stops working... in any case it\'s a start!

Victor McDermott

It would be a lot cheaper and more practical to develop a helmet with an optical guidance system to place on the head of a trained mule to pack in supplies. The helmet would have an optical screen with a target dot that the mule would walk to. When there the next waypoint would be indicated. Much quicker and cheaper to develop, easier to maintain in the combat field. Just there is no big development and support contract attached to it.

Facebook User

I find this video great guys,thank you Gizmag Team for the explanation. Robot

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