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DARPA shows off Big Dog ground drone to USMC Commandant

by Mike Hoffman on September 10, 2012

The Marine Corps Commandant and DARPA’s director got a first hand look Monday at what DARPA used to call the BigDog ground drone and is now calling the Legged Squad Support System (LS3).

Boston Dynamics has built the ground drone. DARPA officails developed the LS3 to give soldiers’ and Marines’ backs a rest. The legged drone is designed to carry 400 pounds and follow a squad leader over rocky terrain, up hills and through brush.

LS3 had its first outdoor test in February when DARPA released this video of its performance.

Since February, Boston Dynamics engineers have built LS3 to run quieter and transition between it’s trot, jog and run modes.

“LS3 is now roughly 10 times quieter than when the platform first came online, so squad members can carry on a conversation right next to it, which was difficult before,”Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, DARPA program manager said in a statement.

The ground drone can trot through rocky terrain at 1–3 miles per hour. It can jog at 5 miles per hour and then run at 7 miles per hour over flat surfaces.

If the BigDog…err…LS3 is knocked over, the drone is programmed to stand back up. It also doesn’t require a soldier or Marine to drive it. It will naturally follow a leader.

“The vision for LS3 is to combine the capabilities of a pack mule with the intelligence of a trained animal,” Hitt said in a statement.

The Marine Corps started a 2-year program to develop the LS3 in July. The first test hosted by DARPA and the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory is scheduled for December.

Last point: Why change the name from BigDog to LS3? Is there a Pentagon acquisition rule that states you must have at least a four-word acronym that includes the word system if a service wants to buy a weapon or vehicle? I don’t get it.

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