For the past 10 years, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been developing a series of new military robots. One of these – a four-legged machine known as the Legged Squad Support System (L3) – recently showed off its capabilities during field testing.
L3 is designed to accompany soldiers over terrain too difficult for conventional vehicles. It will carry up to 400 lbs of gear and enough fuel for missions covering 20 miles and lasting 24 hours. Due to enter service in 2014, it should greatly reduce the burden of equipment for soldiers. This latest version, seen in the video below, features new advances in control, stability and maneuverability – including "Leader Follow" decision making, enhanced roll recovery, exact foot placement over rough terrain, the ability to maneuver in an urban environment, and verbal command capability.
The robot would also be able to maneuver at night and serve as a mobile auxiliary power source to the squad, so troops could recharge batteries for radios and handheld devices while on patrol. The DARPA platform developer for the LS3 is engineering company Boston Dynamics, whose other work includes PETMAN and the Cheetah robot.