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Saturday, February 27, 2010

$32 Million for a Robot Mule

U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Tactical Technology Office and the U.S. Marine Corps have awarded Boston Dynamics with a 30-month, $32-million contract last week to deliver a prototype of a robot mule called LS3 - Legged Squad Support Systems. LS3 is a dynamic robot designed to go anywhere soldiers and marines go on foot. Each LS3 will carry up to 400 lbs of gear and enough fuel for missions covering 20 miles and lasting 24 hours. LS3 will not need a driver, because it will automatically follow a leader using computer vision or travel to designated locations using sensing and GPS. The development of LS3 will take 30 months, with first walk out scheduled for 2012.

Boston Dynamics will also collaborate with including engineers and scientists from AAI Corp., aircraft-maker Bell Helicopter, Carnegie Mellon's National Robotics Engineering Center, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and motion-control systems provider Woodward HRT to develop the LS3's hydraulics, propulsion and guidance systems.

Boston Dynamics, founded in 1992, scored a breakthrough in 2003 when DARPA began funding the development of BigDog, a 75-kilogram mechanical workhorse and the LS3's predecessor.

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