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Robotic 'pack Mule' Would Relieve Equipment Burden For Soldier in the Field

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DARPA's Legged Squad Support System

DARPA'??s Legged Squad Support System will relieve troops of their 100-pound equipment load, take voice commands, and maneuver around obstacles, among other tasks.

Credit: DARPA

U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) researchers are developing the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), a robotic system designed to carry 400 pounds of equipment, walk 20 miles at a time, and serve as an auxiliary power source for troops to recharge batteries for radios and handheld devices. LS3's primary mission is to support the soldier in the field, says DARPA's Joseph K. Hitt. "It’s about solving a real military problem: The incredible load of equipment our soldiers and Marines carry in Afghanistan today," Hitt says.

LS3 currently is completing field trials to test its performance in different types of terrain, including wooded areas, deserts, and in various weather conditions. The robot uses sensors to navigate at night, move around in urban settings, respond to voice commands, and gauge distances and directions. The system also is programmed to identify different forms of vegetation it may encounter.

Hitt says LS3 is designed to work like a trained animal led by a handler. "The technology of the robot focuses on mobility, perception, and human-robot interaction," he says.

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