warfighter can be saddled with more than 100 pounds of gear, resulting in
physical strain, fatigue and degraded performance. Reducing the load on
dismounted warfighters has become a major point of emphasis for defense research
and development, because the increasing weight of individual equipment has a
negative impact on warfighter readiness. The Army has identified physical
overburden as one of its top five science and technology challenges. To help
alleviate physical weight on troops, DARPA is developing a four-legged robot,
the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), to integrate with a squad of Marines or
LS3 seeks to demonstrate that a highly mobile, semi-autonomous
legged robot can carry 400 lbs of a squad’s load, follow squad members through
rugged terrain and interact with troops in a natural way, similar to a trained
animal and its handler.
The LS3 program goal is to develop a robot that
will go through the same terrain the squad goes through without hindering the
squad’s mission. The robot could also serve as a mobile auxiliary power source
to the squad, so troops can recharge batteries for radios and handheld devices
while on patrol.
In January 2012, the LS3 prototype completed its first
outdoor assessment, demonstrating mobility by climbing and descending a hill and
exercising its perception capabilities.
A two-year, platform-refinement
test cycle began in July 2012, with Marine and Army involvement, culminating in
a planned capstone exercise where LS3 should embed with Marines conducting field
exercises. During this period, DARPA seeks to finish the development of and
refine LS3’s technologies to provide a suite of autonomy settings, including
leader-follower tight, leader-follower corridor and go-to-waypoint, described
Additionally, technologies to allow squad members to
speak commands to LS3 are anticipated to be added during this period.
LS3 represents the culmination of a decade of research in perception and
autonomy with programs like DARPA’s Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle-Perception
for Off-Road Robotics Integration (UPI) program, mobility work with DARPA’s “Big
Dog” and significant advances in natural human-robot interface such as voice
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