Video: The Latest, Terrifying Drone Dog

Remember DARPA’s BigDog? You know, the terrifying, four-legged robot that won’t fall over when kicked or when walking on ice and snow. Well, DARPA and Boston Dynamics (the guys who are also working on this) are testing an upgraded version of the dog that will carry 400 pounds of gear for more than 20 miles without a refueling.

The latest version of the robot, called the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), will use “vision sensors” to lock onto dismounted soldiers and follow them in the field (like a loyal puppy, too bad it reminds me of the Terminator) and autonomously navigate around obstacles in its path. Heck, the damned thing is even expected to respond to soldiers’ voice commands, like “come”, “stop” and “sit.” Oh and if that’s not enough, it will serve as a walking battery charger for troops’ electronics.

I will say one thing, it’s going to have to get a lot quieter to accompany some infantry patrols.

Read what DARPA has to say about its new toy and then click through the jump to watch a video of the LS3:

Recently the LS3 prototype underwent its first outdoor exercise, demonstrating the ability to follow a person using its “eyes”—sensors that allow the robot to distinguish between trees, rocks, terrain obstacles and people. Over the course of the next 18 months, DARPA plans to complete development of and refine key capabilities to ensure LS3 is able to support dismounted squads of warfighters.

Features to be tested and validated include the ability to carry 400lbs on a 20-mile trek in 24-hours without being refueled, and refinement of LS3’s vision sensors to track a specific individual or object, observe obstacles in its path and to autonomously make course corrections as needed. Also planned is the addition of “hearing” technology, enabling squad members to speak commands to LS3 such as “stop,” “sit” or “come here.” The robot also serves as a mobile auxiliary power source— troops may recharge batteries for radios and handheld devices while on patrol.

DARPA seeks to demonstrate that an LS3 can carry a considerable load from dismounted squad members, follow them through rugged terrain and interact with them in a natural way, similar to the way a trained animal and its handler interact.

“If successful, this could provide real value to a squad while addressing the military’s concern for unburdening troops,” said Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, DARPA program manager. “LS3 seeks to have the responsiveness of a trained animal and the carrying capacity of a mule.”

The 18-month platform-refinement test cycle, with Marine and Army involvement, kicks off this summer.  The tests culminate in a planned capstone exercise where LS3 will embed with Marines conducting field exercises.

LS3 is based on mobility technology advanced by DARPA’s Big Dog technology demonstrator, as well other DARPA robotics programs which developed the perception technology for LS3’s “eyes” and planned “ears.”

44 Comments on "Video: The Latest, Terrifying Drone Dog"

  1. I'd think the noise of the engines would be a problem for foot patrols as well as the voice commands.

  2. Put a mini gun on this, and you have a terifying robot great job Darpa

  3. It seems like a mule might be the best replacement for a mule — I know need for feed and water require additional logistic and manpower channels, but doesn't that balance the likely incredible cost of these toys and the noise mentioned by Taggert above? The great thing about real animals is that they can forage for fuel (in many environments) and extend their range on the fly. Can this thing graze for fuel? I also know animals get spooked in firefights battle environment, but still… Can someone please explain what this thing's competitive primary (considering both lifetime costs and survivability) competitive advantage is over flesh and blood pack animals?

  4. Dr. Grzlickson | February 8, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Reply

    This should accompany our snipers and other stealthy troops.

  5. wow, we are wasting a bunch of money on this?
    why do we just use a mules? they carry 400 pounds,fast,very good coordination, CHEAP, use food instead of electricity, no malfunctions and they dont panic.

    it seems to me DARPA just wants to look important by spending money on immature technology.

  6. What a complete waste of money. They use _real_ animals for things like this all over the world, in spots that are _definitely_ more harrowing than the forests of …whever that is in the video.. Virginia?

  7. I can't help but think that the drone dog will be the slowest and least mobile component of an infantry squad.

  8. I think that once this dog gets it's final paws fitted and it's insulated, camo fur in place, as well as a better muffler, it will be a fairly stealthy beast. And like some hybrid cars, it might shut off it's engine when not moving, perhaps to listen. And while a human might beat it up the hill today, the next version will be faster and more nimble and humans will be the same. One problem in the future may be keeping ground pounders from riding it..

  9. I keep looking at that photo and I swear there's a guy sitting in front with his legs sticking out.

  10. seems legit

  11. Interesting

    The BIG question when do they make the ATAT walker from Star wars for the Army? LOL (Joke)

  12. I don't see a mouth, how are you gonna play frisby with it?

  13. It looks ok on solid ground, but how does it do in deep soft mud or in a swamp ???
    That noise is not good at all.

  14. I think Leg squad support system will be stealthy equiepment, did not make noise.

  15. Big, Strong and follows simple commands? Put 'im on a 60!

  16. Operator: Sh*t!
    Big Dog: Command affirmative, now in sit mode. Next command please.

  17. Seems to me that these things shouldn't be FOLLOWING an infantry patrol…they should be about 200 feet up front, setting off any IEDs along the line of advance. So a dual purpose for them: carrying gear and protecting the squad from booby traps.

  18. The problem with this or anything that reduces weight or lightens the load of the soldiers is that his Sgt.'s immediate response… "Great! Now we can carry 400lbs more ammo!"

  19. The point of DARPA is to develope technology like this so that they can provide it to better companies that can improve the design. Yes it may seem like a waste of money now but the robotics research done here will be improved. DARPA is used to make technologies available for companies to grab it off the shelf and see how to make it better. This specific technology is way ahead of its time and won't be used for a while. You can't take a tracked vehicle or wheeled vehicle into jagged rocks on the hills of Afganistan or a country like it. This is a good idea, its just not there yet.

  20. Sounds like a chain saw.

  21. too much noise way to big. should be in a Ghillie suit.

  22. If our nation's enemies are afraid of leaf blowers, I think we found the ultimate weapon. High fives DARPA!

  23. 20 miles in 24 hours? This is horrible. On road marches we carry over one hundred pounds thirty two miles in five and a half hours to include two fifteen minute stops and one thirty minute stop. It would never stay up with a loaded down soldier. You'd have to have delayed needed equipment unloaded from the soldier to the dog and a fallout contingient (group of soldiers) to stay with the slow dog. So now the question would be what gear is delayable for the over all length of the move?

  24. Since the bad guys have no fancy DARPA to make robots, How do the Taliban move suppiles??? They have no trains, boats or planes and the roads are few??

  25. There is no replacing a mule with a robot. Nice try DARPA, but its not practical. The Army has used mules in the past and uses them now. They carry a heavy load, and nothing compares to them when ur moving men and weapons and everything else.

  26. DARPA may have something here; obviously its still in development and has a ways to go but the concept and initial 'reality' looks very interesting..!

  27. I think {Mr. ED} is alot more fun looking at if he could run also and not so noisy.

  28. Id pack three donkeys and a cowboy over that,they wont make much niose and will do the job as they do now in afgan and earas around..

  29. it's so noisy… not good for stealth operation…

  30. It's a development project. Any of you ever see the first computer – filled a room. Now your phone can do that job plus 100 more at the same time. Now that the programming for stability has been established, it's only a matter of time before it gets better, and smaller, and faster, and smarter, and quieter.

  31. never really liked these things..but then look at how tanks were at the start…

    (i kno there's a difference between 'mules' and big ass tanks..but u get my drift..)

  32. The very first IFV was pretty much a go-kart with a .30 cal browning nailed to it.

  33. Why does this remind me of the robot dog "Rags" from Woody Allens' movie, "Sleeper"?

  34. Why does it remind me of the robot dog "Rags" from Woody Allens' movie "Sleeper"?

  35. Sounds just like an ATV carrying supplies lol

    Besides its a prototype people, relax, its not like they're gonna ship 5000 of these things in that level of development to our guys this year.

    And yeah, and RPG would wreck this thing, but a real live Mule, an ATV, heck even an M114/1151 wouldn't exactly be good to go after taking an RPG hit either

    Plus for a mule, you gotta have a soldier caring for it at all times, making sure it doesn't run off during a firefight or whatever

  36. The noise could wake up the terrorist…

  37. Wonder if it's bitten any anchorwomen in the face?

  38. A waste of developmente dollars that will be getting scarce in the future. We'd be better off developing lighter materials and smarter weapons for our soldiers instead of wasting money on something else that we drag around in the field and then have to fix when it breaks.

  39. This'll be great when it decides in the middle of a firefight to hump someones leg!

  40. Watch him start pissing oil on the side of a humvee.

  41. Not to mention that it has been done in the past… Mule tase just like chicken when your in a fix for food…

  42. Yup, infantry will definitely use this as a means of transportation when the boss isn't looking. Boots lead the way!!

  43. Technoweapon | May 28, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Reply

    We're seeing the introduction of walking technology. The next step in transportation technology and capability. Give this time to mature and grow.

    With technology like this comes the possibility of walkers, or mechs. Science Fiction is slowly but surely coming into the world of reality.

    If you're smirking and scoffing then imagine this…

    The technology has matured. It's quiet. And with other technology implemented it has become an awesome and game changing invention that can/has spread into every Branch. The Navy can autonomously load/offload their ships in port at record shattering speeds, for instance.

    Now go bigger. We've been able to create fighting vehicles that can walk, trot, even run. Capable of carrying large weapons and heavy armor. Suddenly the M1Abrams has been trumped by a three story tall armored behemoth of technological death.

    I'm not blabbering about science fiction and nerdy wet dreams. You're seeing the introduction right there. Give it another 50 years.

  44. You know that military tactics have become "neo-Napoleonic" in the sense of being able to line up all the cannon against a tactical point to blow that point away and then bayonet rush the empty defense across the carnage to flank the enemy there. So far, air power has served that purpose, esp. with Reaper type drones. The The brass are still sending bayonet charges (essentially) against blasted positions, and sometimes going "Ooops!". Arm the dogs and have a remote operator to work the weapon, as if it is a terrain using Reaper. The charge could be up steep terrain at 20 miles an hour. Noise is "good!" Top of the high spot overlooks enemy tactical retreat and terrain based drones don't have to leave.

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