DARPA shows off Big Dog ground drone to USMC Commandant

The Marine Corps Commandant and DARPA’s director got a first hand look Monday at what DARPA used to call the BigDog ground drone and is now calling the Legged Squad Support System (LS3).

Boston Dynamics has built the ground drone. DARPA officails developed the LS3 to give soldiers’ and Marines’ backs a rest. The legged drone is designed to carry 400 pounds and follow a squad leader over rocky terrain, up hills and through brush.

LS3 had its first outdoor test in February when DARPA released this video of its performance.

Since February, Boston Dynamics engineers have built LS3 to run quieter and transition between it’s trot, jog and run modes.

“LS3 is now roughly 10 times quieter than when the platform first came online, so squad members can carry on a conversation right next to it, which was difficult before,”Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, DARPA program manager said in a statement.

The ground drone can trot through rocky terrain at 1-3 miles per hour. It can jog at 5 miles per hour and then run at 7 miles per hour over flat surfaces.

If the BigDog…err…LS3 is knocked over, the drone is programmed to stand back up. It also doesn’t require a soldier or Marine to drive it. It will naturally follow a leader.

“The vision for LS3 is to combine the capabilities of a pack mule with the intelligence of a trained animal,” Hitt said in a statement.

The Marine Corps started a 2-year program to develop the LS3 in July. The first test hosted by DARPA and the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory is scheduled for December.

Last point: Why change the name from BigDog to LS3? Is there a Pentagon acquisition rule that states you must have at least a four-word acronym that includes the word system if a service wants to buy a weapon or vehicle? I don’t get it.

34 Comments on "DARPA shows off Big Dog ground drone to USMC Commandant"

  1. Need one that can tow a mortar. Not optimistic about firing one from big dog…

  2. Seems like a mule would be cheaper.

  3. That is the coolest thing ever.

  4. Need to have a Machine gun and Camera mounting in front and have the DOG taking a LEAD….

  5. Commandant: How is the F-35B program coming along?
    Adjutant: Well, sir it…uhh…um… Hey, look, a robot dog!
    Commandant: Oooo, cool! What were we talking about again?

    At least it no longer sounds like (and is as loud as) a leaf blower.

    (In all honesty though, these things are pretty cool.)

  6. 1) Why does it pull its feet up so quickly? It looks like it's constantly trying to unstick its feet from tangles. Perhaps this motion makes it harder to tangle in the first place?

    2) Not sure how to word this – why does it move its feet so frequently? It appears programmed to maintain a constant "stride rate" regardless of ground speed. This is particularly apparent at around 1:17, when one machine is stationary but stomping, and the other is moving very slowly but stomping rather quickly.

    On both points, it seems like the natural stride of an animal would also be more efficient for a machine.

  7. They're still trying to do something about the fart noises it makes while moving.

  8. What happens when…
    – fuel tank / carried ammo catches fire and it keeps "following the leader"?
    – someone shoots a hydralic line / joint / fan / etc?

    Seems a track vehicle would be better suited…

  9. How many versions of an unmanned ground supply platform do we need?

  10. Kinda loud, no? Would be OK I guess for long insertions or patrols but eventually you have to turn the damn thing off to hear!

    Would be great to have it follow you to a staging area, shut it down, then go on the mission… then whistle twice and powers up and appears out of nowhere with water bottles, ammo, medical, etc. It comes to you like ol' Paint used to do in the westerns.

    Ah…. now I see it.

  11. What happens when it see's a cat?

  12. The drone is amazing achievement. Soldiers aren't as beefy as they use to be, having something help them carry extra equipment would be useful.

    However, wonder how they'll sort out endurance. MAINTENANCE in the Field.. More High tech the plumming, easier it is for drain to get clogged up.

    Where heck they going use this thing? I hope the soldiers in the field will be able make sense in putting these expensive machines before production is approved.

    As side note, i don't like fact their not calling them Big Dogs anymore.

  13. Will it play fetch and bring me my slippers and paper in the morning?

  14. I like these creepy things and in 10 years I’d imagine it;ll be a whole lot slicker. But for virtually any terrain this is supposed to operate on I think a flexible-tracked vehicle with a self righting mechanism would be just as effective and a whole lot simpler.

  15. just get a fucking horse

  16. Hmm.

    How much weaponry could you load on it? Add in remote control or ai targetting, You have a “mini-tank” if armored. Then add in some “active defense”. How long before you no longer really need a guy to “lead” the thing?

    400 lbs? 100 lbs armor-300 lbs-remote controlled minigun? Now upsize it. Remember, this is a prototype.

  17. While impressive – this thing is awfully loud (granted, It is a prototype).

    What concerns me, is that even though it'll carry 400 lbs now, it somehow seems unlikely the load marines are physically carrying will get any lighter.

  18. What is the benefit of this, in total, over a real mule?

  19. Tribulationtime | September 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Reply

    "IT" would grew in something usefull. Right Now I gonna keep one eye on my pet f***ing around my mower

  20. Super rich men 's war toys.

  21. All in all, 's a Good Idea, though the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions. Definitely not feasible in the short-term future. *shrug*

    China's response: smaller versions that carry less, are cheaper, and by the billions. And they explode (command-det or accidental)

  22. 400 pounds, hmm… So-o-o if we mount soldier on top of it, give him mg or at weapon we would have mech cavalry unit.
    Not to mention mech cowboy potential in Hollywood!

  23. Robot horse cavalry, for the day we need to ride down those foot-mobile Taliban.

  24. It follows the leader….
    So what happens if the leader ends being a bad guy?

  25. Man is that thing loud.

  26. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the psychological warfare potential of a platform like this is limitless. The creep-out factor alone is overwhelming. Plus, this is just the first generation of the technology. Maybe ten or twenty years from now, these things will be faster than the fastest Olympic sprinter, agile, armed to the teeth and practically silent. This is just the beginning.

  27. remember we had mounted cav until we had jeeps and we did not loose the last mule until after Korea. not to mention in Vietnam the used bicycles to all huge amount of cargo

  28. I am a bit frustrated that darpa gets millions of dollars to build a gigantic robot, but the military still hasn't built or bought a more dependable firearm for our grunts in the field. We know our soilders fire guns that's fact, the robot is theoretical. Seems the military needs some better prioritites.

  29. Things are getting really spooky out there. We love to bring the kitchen sink with us in combat. Just remembering Charlie and his baggie of rice.

  30. So many people are sceptical about this project , im surprsed the potential applicatioins for this and knowledge gained in the development are priceless this could really help to win battles and save lives , well done Boston Dynamics

  31. looks like a total waste of time and money in its current form to me!
    yeah , toys are neat but I can,t see this as anything but a money pit.
    it looks far too noisy, slow and vulnerable to rifle fire , and I can,t see it as an asset

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