Boston Dynamics’ four-legged robots look terrifyingly weird, and can carry more than 400 pounds of weight, but they’re too noisy to be good on a battlefield, said a recent report from Military.com, and the program might be scrapped because of it.
“As Marines were using it, there was the challenge of seeing the potential possibility because of the limitations of the robot itself,” said Kyle Olson, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab. “They took it as it was: a loud robot that’s going to give away their position.”
The Warfighting Lab worked with DARPA in order to create the robot. After two and a half years and $32 million, a contract with Boston Dynamics (a subsidiary of Google) panned out with the Legged Squad Support System (LS3). The robot was autonomous and able to follow verbal and visual commands and follow troops on foot. In 2013 Boston Dynamics was awarded a second contract for almost $10 million, with which they could demonstrate the LS3 and create a new version with a quieter power supply and better shielding.
The noise of the gas-powered engine continued to be a problem, though. Olson’s words were in reference to a 2012 demonstration, and making the robot and its engine smaller hasn’t solved it.
Boston Dynamics’ Spot, a smaller version that can carry about 40 pounds and used an electric motor, doesn’t have the autonomy that the army needs.
“I see Spot right now as more of a ground reconnaissance asset,” Capt. James Pineiro, the head of the Ground Combat Element branch at the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com. “The problem is, Spot in its current configuration doesn’t have the autonomy to do that. It has the ability to walk in its environment, but it’s completely controller-driven.”
Now, Warfighting Lab says there are no more trials or upgrades planned for Spot or LS3. Instead, the lab is looking into drones and other unmanned vehicles that could perform similar tasks. The legged robots are now in storage, and Olson said that the Marine Corps sees them as a “fanciful” experiment.
“We tend to play with things that are fanciful and strange. Learning from it was a big part, and we’re still learning.”
(Via The Mary Sue.)
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense