Darpa's Legged Squad Support System (LS3) to lighten troops' load

Feb 08, 2012

Today’s dismounted 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 highly mobile, semi-autonomous legged robot, the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), to integrate with a squad of Marines or Soldiers.

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, 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.

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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.”

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User comments : 21

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Bob_Kob
Feb 08, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
NotAsleep
4.3 / 5 (3) Feb 08, 2012
Looks as though DARPA bought the Big Dog from Boston Dynamics and added their own spin to it:

http://www.physor...bot.html

Still loud and still full of moving parts, which Murphy says will cause it to break down every time in the middle of the trip
sqorpo
5 / 5 (3) Feb 08, 2012
yeah, I think the first thing they need to do is quiet that thing down. I doubt a soldier would want something that loud following them around basically announcing their position.
maxcypher
3.4 / 5 (5) Feb 08, 2012
Uh, mules are pretty cheap, quiet, trainable and easy to feed. Why do we need this robot?
NotAsleep
4.7 / 5 (3) Feb 08, 2012
Uh, mules are pretty cheap, quiet, trainable and easy to feed. Why do we need this robot?

I'll recycle my answer from the Big Dog article I listed above where we compared it to a horse. Check it out for more discussion on the topic. There's a lot more discussion there that might get you thinking

- If LS3 breaks a leg, you can fix it with duct tape and a metal rod
- If LS3 gets shot, it'll probably keep going unaffected
- You can probably stack several LS3s on top of one another for transport overseas
- LS3 will not get sick
- If you need LS3 to stop immediately, stay and be quiet, it will
- You can take cover behind an LS3 during a firefight and not feel bad for it or expect it to run away

Sure, it's a tradeoff, but in the end the logistical footprint SHOULD be smaller for LS3 than a mule. We have yet to see how much regular maintenance they require... probably lots of moving parts on one of these
NotAsleep
5 / 5 (1) Feb 08, 2012
It should also be noted that the military does use pack animals for transportation, most noteably in Afghanistan where we hire them from the locals. If the LS3 doesn't perform substantially better than mules in an environment where mule rentals are cheap and plentiful then I suspect the LS3 won't get used there
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.1 / 5 (7) Feb 08, 2012
I get it. The enemy sees this and starts laughing thereby giving away their location.
http://www.metaca...testing/
powerup1
2 / 5 (3) Feb 08, 2012
Uh, mules are pretty cheap, quiet, trainable and easy to feed. Why do we need this robot?


The same can be said about the horse, so why do we need the car?
Deadbolt
not rated yet Feb 08, 2012
Even if this doesn't live up to the standard, it's still one more step on the path of ever more advanced machines being involved in war.
Skepticus
1 / 5 (1) Feb 08, 2012
Oh dear. It sounds like a cheap lawn mower. Perhaps they should enlist some luxury car's engine designers.
Vendicar_Decarian
Feb 08, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 08, 2012
The packanimal-shtick is a ruse. Just a way to make these things more palatable/publicly accepted before weaponizing them.

Ground drones - here we go.
Shootist
Feb 08, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Shootist
1 / 5 (3) Feb 08, 2012
Uh, mules are pretty cheap, quiet, trainable and easy to feed. Why do we need this robot?

I'll recycle my answer from the Big Dog article I listed above where we compared it to a horse. Check it out for more discussion on the topic. There's a lot more discussion there that might get you thinking

- If LS3 breaks a leg, you can fix it with duct tape and a metal rod
- If LS3 gets shot, it'll probably keep going unaffected
- You can probably stack several LS3s on top of one another for transport overseas
- LS3 will not get sick
- If you need LS3 to stop immediately, stay and be quiet, it will
- You can take cover behind an LS3 during a firefight and not feel bad for it or expect it to run away

Sure, it's a tradeoff, but in the end the logistical footprint SHOULD be smaller for LS3 than a mule. We have yet to see how much regular maintenance they require... probably lots of moving parts on one of these


One cannot eat LS3. One can eat the mule.
BrainGuy
not rated yet Feb 08, 2012
While this is an impressive piece of engineering, it has been so for years. I see few visual improvements from the earlier model. I understand it is a difficult vantage point from which to make a n assessment, since we aren't privy to the algorithms used in its navigation system. As mentioned, it is still noisy. A device such as that should also serve far more purposes, in my opinion, to be considered economically feasible.
Wolf358
not rated yet Feb 09, 2012
Isn't this just an update of the military's "Seven league boots" project from the 1960's?
Mayday
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 09, 2012
Scale it up. I mean really scale it up. Add significantly longer legs. Give it several large bore machine guns with laser guided bullets. Teach it to run. Send out about six dozen of the suckers to announce your intentions. Game over. Oh yeah, I almost forgot: they need to be flat black and only used at night. The noises they make will cause an unmistakable stench to rise from the enemy's hind quarters, announcing their position.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Feb 09, 2012
Send out about six dozen of the suckers to announce your intentions. Game over.

Only if we lived in the era where armes went on a plain battlefield and squared off against each other.

That era is long past (100 years or so).

Today it's asymmetric warfare - and if you can bring down a multi million dollar walker with a 5 dollar tripwire, a 50 cent paint grenade, a zero dollar pit or a 10 dollar land mine then having big, powerfull war machinery is just a sure fire way to lose a war through bankruptcy.

As proof: See Afghanistan. See how the US is going bankrupt using high tech equipment while the Taliban are using IEDs?
Who do you think will win such an engagement in the long run? The one with the big tanks?
cmn
not rated yet Feb 09, 2012
Winning efficiently, at the cost of many lives. I'll take the tank, thanks.
Mayday
1 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2012
Without aggressive and relentless engagement producing a winnable order of battle, warfare becomes asymtetric. A good commander understands that you cannot wait for your enemies to present symetry. The creation of the symmetric battlefield should be the first task of the winning commander. Fail in that and victory should not be expected. This has been true since well before 100 years ago. It has been true since mankind created warfare. In fact, this plays out in almost all conflict, from football games to political debates.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Feb 09, 2012
Winning efficiently, at the cost of many lives. I'll take the tank, thanks.

The point is: Tanks don't win wars.
Technology doesn't win wars.

Economics and attrition wins wars.
Sink all your economics into expensive gadgets and you WILL lose in a drawn out conflict.
NotAsleep
not rated yet Feb 09, 2012
Before discussing warfare here, read Sun Tzu's "Art of War", a book with theories still adhered to in modern combat. The principles of war are very simple, although implementing them correctly is extremely difficult.

As far as the noise of the LS3, remember that DARPA still has it so it's not done being developed yet. The final iteration will almost certainly have quieter exhaust.

One cannot eat LS3. One can eat the mule.

If one is in a situation where one needs to eat their pack animal then one is probably in a situation far more dire than worrying about food

Sink all your economics into expensive gadgets and you WILL lose in a drawn out conflict

Not if done wisely... i.e. the advance to jet technology was critical for air warfare. However, point taken about the $$$ sink for technology in our middle eastern conflicts...
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Feb 09, 2012
Scale it up. I mean really scale it up. Add significantly longer legs. Give it several large bore machine guns with laser guided bullets. Teach it to run. Send out about six dozen of the suckers to announce your intentions. Game over. Oh yeah, I almost forgot: they need to be flat black and only used at night. The noises they make will cause an unmistakable stench to rise from the enemy's hind quarters, announcing their position.
What you mean something like this?
http://www.youtub...=related

Treaded vehicles and flyers are a lot less vulnerable. Walkers are sitting ducks. Although this might be a fair compromise (not really):
http://www.youtub...f8gG36KE

Caliban
2 / 5 (1) Feb 12, 2012
...not to mention that if this piece of shit gets hit with some type of incendiary round --there goes all your shit.
How far away is replacement shit?

Sorry kids- as advertised, just another goldmine for military contractors long gone bloated from extended sucking on the Public teat.

Is War/Defense Profiteering still punishable by Firing Squad?

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