Home » Ground » Marines Set to Test Big Dog Ground Robot

Marines Set to Test Big Dog Ground Robot

by Mike Hoffman on September 25, 2013

QUANTICO MARINE BASE, Va. — Marines will get their hands this November on the Big Dog — a robot built to scale hillsides, walk through brush and even crosss creeks all while carrying 400 pounds of gear.

Engineers will hand over the Big Dog to a group of Marines this November to test at Fort Devens, Mass., to see how well Marines can operate the robot and test how it operates under simulated combat conditions, said Maj. James Richardson, head of the Logistics Combat Element Branch of the Science and Technology Division of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory.

Engineers at Boston Dynamics and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have spent years developing the Big Dog, which is now technically called the Legged Squad Support System (LS3). Of course, no military development project could survive without a proper abbreviation.

Marines are displaying the Big Dog here at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab display at the Modern Day Marine Exposition. The one on display has visible signs of wear from a recent test at the TwentyNine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center.

If all goes well at its test at Fort Devens, the Marine Corps plans on sending the Big Dog to Hawaii in July where it will receive further testing alongside Marines at the RIMPAC 2013 exercise, Richardson said.

The goal of the Big Dog is to offer Marine units a solution to taking weight off their backs with a robot that can traverse any terrain a Marine patrol may face. The robot is designed to walk seven to eight miles per hour. The Big Dog has a walk, trot and run mode.

Early feedback on the robot said it was too loud. Engineers have since reduced the noise it makes ten-fold. Engineers also engineered the Big Dog to pick itself back up after it falls down.

One of the biggest advocates for the Big Dog is Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos. He got his first look of the ground drone as commanding general at Marine Corps Combat Development Command. In September 2012, he and the director of DARPA saw the Big Dog operate first hand.

In July 2012, the Marine Corps had announced its two year plan to develop the robot. No official date has been set to decide if the Marine Corps will invest the money to make the Big Dog a program of record.

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{ 88 comments… read them below or add one }

jamesb September 25, 2013 at 11:51 am

Why are my tax dollars being spent on this?


Dilbert September 25, 2013 at 11:57 am

Because once cost is down there are advantages to this over the alternatives.


UAVGeek September 25, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Government spending isn't paid for by taxes. The reality behind taxes is far more sinister.


radiogaga September 25, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Government spending is paid by the tax payers, one way or another.


UAVGeek September 26, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Actually no, it's not. Go read how the interaction between the Fed and the Treasury works.


Rest Pal September 25, 2013 at 5:29 pm


you mean wasted.

answer: (i) because they can; (ii) US tax payers aren't vigilant or educated enough to stop them.


Tom Billings September 26, 2013 at 2:01 am

Your tax dollars are being spent to keep Marines' vertebrae from being compressed, often permanently, by the weight of the equipment they presently must haul around in their personal kit. The ability to carry more water and ammo along on a long patrol lifts the patrol's effectiveness by increasing stay time in an observation hide, and its firepower if the enemy is encountered, as long as the LS3 can stay quiet.

In assault situations an LS3's use is more ambiguous, until the consolidation and pursuit phase begins. When that begins LS3 should again allow a Marine Squad to pursue the enemy longer and with higher fire capabilities.


blight_ September 26, 2013 at 11:11 am

Good point. If it reduces attrition due to reducing infantry loading, troops will either move faster or carry even more gear…such as it is.


UAVGeek September 26, 2013 at 1:55 pm

"Ounces equal pounds, pounds equals pain" -Friend who is an infantry officer.


Rest Pal October 1, 2013 at 1:08 pm

First off, your claims are simply not true.

Second, many more people doing far more constructive and meaningful jobs in the civilian industry are having their vertebrae compressed on a daily basis.

Third, since the US has been invading other countries illegally, it's not a bad thing to minimize the military's capability in murdering civilians abroad.

Finally, the US military has already got the best logistics support in the world. The same cannot be said about the civilian infrastructure – highways, bridges, rail roads, etc. (3rd world standard)

The taxpayer's money could be spent on better causes.

The answer to jamesb's question "Why are my tax dollars being spent on this?" is simply: the US has a corrupt, incompetent, third world style puppet government.


Steve Dixon October 2, 2013 at 6:43 am

Rest Pal – You can get away with saying that sort of rubbish because of the freedom to do so – the freedom guaranteed by doing those 'less constructive and less meaningful jobs' in the Armed Forces.

Go elsewhere and suck a lemon please.


guest October 6, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Dixon, you are mistaken. The Armed Forces are not there to protect your freedom, but that of the power that be.

Steve Dixon October 2, 2013 at 6:49 am

Good points except that, in my limited experience, when we find a way to "lighten the load" we just ADD MORE kit (extra batteries, gadgets, water, ammo, ad infinitum) until the old problems return.
We've all experienced that awful feeling in the bush where we reach down to pick up our gear and momentarily panic because we CAN'T EVEN MOVE IT! What do we do? We suck it up, strap it on and move out.


Steve Dixon October 2, 2013 at 7:06 am

Good points except that, in my limited experience, when we find a way to "lighten the load" we just ADD MORE kit (extra batteries, gadgets, water, ammo, ad infinitum) until the old problems return.
We've all experienced that awful feeling in the bush where we reach down to pick up our gear and momentarily panic because we CAN'T EVEN MOVE IT! What do we do? We suck it up, strap it on and move out.


jeff September 25, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Wouldn't a donkey do the same thing for a lot less?


Paul September 25, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Yeah but if your being shot at, you would want something with thermal vision and bullet proof cameras to make my job easier. This is a new age that makes are men return home in one piece. Also, the amount of weight that a single soldier caries makes it hard to function. With this it can carry it and if is the bigger of the men that will take the fire off the men who serve with it. Its not perfect but if it helps I wouldn't second guess it.


Rest Pal September 25, 2013 at 1:38 pm

You mean like a Armored Personnel Carrier? or perhaps a light tank?


Anonymous September 25, 2013 at 12:53 pm

No but we'll spend billions and use billions of dollars worth of equipment to kill a guy riding a donkey.


Rest Pal September 25, 2013 at 1:39 pm

yes, but the military industrial complex wouldn't be making any money then, would it?


Rufus Frazier September 25, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Military industrial complex research and development made possible the inexpensive computer you are typing on now and the internet whereby morons share with us the fruits of their public school education.

Wait, I see your point.


Rest Pal September 25, 2013 at 4:35 pm

I don’t consider Charles Babbage, Alan Turing etc part of the US military industrial complex. In fact they weren’t even American. And I certainly don’t think Chinese cheap labor can be considered part of research and development of the military industrial complex.

In fact, I submit to you that the computers would have been much cheaper and the internet access much faster if the US had not wasted hundreds of billions a year on parasites in the military industrial complex.

By the way, did you know that the computer and the internet were developed mostly by the civilian industry, inside and outside the US?

You didn’t learn that in your school, did you? (what school was it?)

US tax payers are NOT getting a fair return on their (coerced) investment – hundreds of billions every year – in the military industrial complex. But I guess welfare recipients will certainly find whatever nonsensical excuse to defend it.


radiogaga September 25, 2013 at 8:37 pm

The computer and the internet were not invented and developed by any military industrial complex.

You are allowed to credit the military industrial complex for the astronomical debt the US government is currently servicing; but you are not allowed to credit the military industrial complex for research and development of the computer and the internet, and certainly not for the decreasing cost, which is exclusively the result of large scale production for the civilian market.

As for morons, they can be from public as well as private schools. Where did you get the false information about the computer and the internet? A public or a private school?


AnonBob September 26, 2013 at 12:11 am

The predecessor to DARPA developed most of the tech behind the internet.

blight_ September 25, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Indeed, until you realize that your contract must specify American donkeys or burros, you can source them from America or Central American NAFTA signees and are paying 3x what a donkey costs in the states because you must ship them from the US to Pakistan, where half will get stolen and cut up for meat on the way to Afghanistan.

Or you fly donkeys and feed on C-17's. Unless you want to buy local pack animals?


Rufus Frazier September 25, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I'm pretty sure you could have bought thousands of mules and flown them and their feed on C-17s to Pakistan for the price of the research that's been invested on "big dog". The only redeeming virtue for the research is that it moves articulated leg and arm research closer to reality for soldiers missing limbs. A worth while expenditure of money IMO.


blight_ September 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Working on costs now. What I can find right now is:

"Feb /09: DARPA awards Boston Dynamics of Waltham, MA a $32 million, 30-month contract to to develop LS3 prototypes. Other team partners include Bell Helicopter, AAI Corp., Carnegie Mellon University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Woodward HRT." http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/darpas-robot-

How many donkeys can be bought and shipped to Afghanistan with 32M? I'm curious how much they would cost in mass production…


radiogaga September 25, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Are you talking about mounting a synthetic mule's leg on a human?

How big a pipe were you using when writing this?


blight_ September 27, 2013 at 9:15 am

Kick from end of the soccer field to the other (note to non-Americans: we call soccer football, reserving the word "football" for an activity where the ball is kicked a few times, but mostly chucked, thrown or passed by hand all over the field.)

By the way, the NFL is actually a "non-profit organization" like the Red Cross. Go tax law!

ColdWarVet75 September 25, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Yes but he already is in the White House


Steve Dixon October 2, 2013 at 6:57 am

…and here I was thinking it was non-white southern GOOSE!


Rafy September 26, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Donkeys are already part of the Marine Corps. Yes I do mean the real four legged ones.


Pastadawg October 2, 2013 at 1:11 am

I don't know about donkeys, but the Corps does use mules. They're two different animals.


rich September 26, 2013 at 9:41 pm

I agree a donkey would be less trouble and less cost.


Curt September 27, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Can a donkey fly in a helo without a problem.? Ride in a truck?
Can a donkey stay where told under fire?
Can a donkey survive without forage? Without water?
Can a donkey sit on the shelf for a year when you don't need it?
Can you stack a donkey on a shelf?
Can a donkey parachute out of a plane?
Can a donkey ignore thinks like mountain lions? bears? coyotes?
Can a donkey carry 400lbs? For how long?
Can a donkey operate with a few bullet holes in them?
Can a donkey draw fire if needed?
If this works out, and it is a big if, it is vastly better than a donkey. Just a a truck was vastly better than a horse cart a century ago.


Rest Pal September 30, 2013 at 1:38 pm

probably not, but then neither can the stupid "Big Dog"


Steve Dixon October 2, 2013 at 11:01 pm


Steve Dixon October 2, 2013 at 6:59 am

can a politician do ANY of those things?
Although I do think the bullet hole question deserves research? (tic)


Indian Mediacine September 26, 2013 at 10:44 pm

If it is any concession, it does look like a large "Bull Dog" that you do not have clean up after.


Boort September 25, 2013 at 12:05 pm

The same reason tax dollars are spent on body armor, advanced medical technologies, commo gear, etc.


tribulationtime September 25, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Buff….Don´t deserve a comment


Lance September 25, 2013 at 1:01 pm

When do we get the AT AT walker going LOL.


blight_ September 25, 2013 at 1:06 pm

A wheeled or tracked minivehicle would've been a good first step…and perhaps a little cheaper to get together.

But here is big dog. Will they use it?


tmb2 September 25, 2013 at 5:43 pm

They had a prototype for a wheeled unmanned cargo vehicle, but eventually decided to cancel it. The reason they're playing with this seems to be its dexterity. It's a neat technology and might be put to use further down the road (which is how things usually go in DARPA), but I don't know if it makes sense deployed as is.


oblatt1 September 25, 2013 at 1:36 pm

"The US Marines – where stupid ideas go to get funding"


Ben September 25, 2013 at 1:44 pm

KMAX is working out great.


AnonBob September 26, 2013 at 12:12 am

The V-22 is doing great too.


Rest Pal October 1, 2013 at 1:17 pm

for the contractors.


hibeam September 25, 2013 at 1:43 pm

I'm working on bad dog. It leaves behind organic mines to harass enemy troops.


Tom September 25, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Could it be outfitted with a stretcher to carry wounded to a safe zone or landing area? Can it reverse and retrace its route autonomously to carry a wounded solder back to a landing zone or base?


majr0d September 25, 2013 at 8:18 pm

I looked at this problem in simulation with the robot mule the Army was looking at for FCS. This robot doesn't seem large enough though.

Who protects the wounded as he's moved to the rear? Who provides medical care for the wounded on the way back? If you send your medic what impact does that have on the unit that is in contact and how does the medic make his way back to the unit?


Tom Billings September 26, 2013 at 2:11 am

IIRC, the system has already demonstrated its ability to remember and use a previously traveled path, so that it can be sent to the rear, be reloaded, and carry the resupply kit to its assigned squad. I believe that separate work was being done by the Air Force, on a larger fan-propelled flying AUV for retrieving wounded more quickly.


conradswims September 25, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Another waste of hardworking tax payer $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Just stay our of the toilet places on planet earth in the first place.


Lee September 26, 2013 at 5:09 am

You mean like all of those $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ spent on the illegals that cross our borders and live better than our poor, who make $1.00 more than they should to qualify for aid? At least this expense has a combat purpose that any grunt can see. Maybe that is why they have the Marines trying this thing out, since EVERY MARINE IS A GRUNT MARINE.


Laura from OR September 28, 2013 at 9:46 pm

I have no problem with this type of research. Marines have to carry heavy loads and they get tired. Tired Marines are in danger of not noticing trip wires and other hazards. I am all for something that helps carry equipment for these heroic Americans.


Joe_Sovereign September 25, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Some day our robot overlords will look back at the Big Dog like we look at early human ancestors.


Chuck September 25, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Back in Vietnam the Marine Corps used what was called a mule to carry heavy loads or a 106. I'm sure by now they could make a battery powered one so it would be very quiet. We could also use solar panels to recharge the batteries.


majr0d September 25, 2013 at 8:19 pm

or just use an ATV.


jsallison September 25, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Needs some tweaking, first thing I thought was litter bearer


03disGRUNTled31 September 25, 2013 at 7:13 pm

WE DO NOT WANT THIS RETARDED THING! Jesus, when the hell are they going to listen to the grunts they try to force this garbage upon.


chris September 25, 2013 at 8:28 pm

LMAO!!!!!! Devil Dogs!!!!!


Rest Pal September 26, 2013 at 12:00 am

yes. they should be banned.

real dogs are smarter, kinder, faster, more energy efficient.

of course I will never suggest using real dogs – it's simply too cruel.

humans, now that's different; because there are TOO many of them, especially American politicians, lawyers, government employees, members of the military, policemen, FBI agents, CIA operatives, NSA scums, TSA perverts, …


Super Tex September 25, 2013 at 8:31 pm

This is a joke……………..Right ?


radiogaga September 25, 2013 at 9:04 pm

just one of the many jokes, but paid for with real taxpayer's money.


guest October 6, 2013 at 11:19 pm

This country is a joke now. What do you think?


jamesb September 25, 2013 at 10:56 pm

I HOPE so…..


iheartweimers September 25, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Haven't the Marines learned yet that they are just
supposed to take the leftovers from the other
services and not think too much? If they have to
hump their own gear they won't overpack, and
will stay in shape to boot. Now where did I leave
that RPG-27? I need it to test a mechanical dog.


Speedy September 26, 2013 at 12:12 am

The idea is that it carries gear for the men it is deployed with.
This frees them up to carry more gear, meaning they need another one to carry that gear, to free them up to carry more gear….

A donkey gets shot and hurt, this thing probably bites the ehad off the fool who shoots it.
Give them time, and it will armed.


anthony September 26, 2013 at 7:31 am

I also agree two donkeys would carry the bagae faster and cheaper,they wont make so much noise either!!


James September 26, 2013 at 9:53 am

They poop, require water, need food and say that GOD AWFUL HEE HAA


blight_ September 26, 2013 at 11:12 am

In the old days they cut the vocal cords on the animal?

I suppose the smell of poop may give you away, and water is a heavy resource. On the plus side, you can give water to a soldier and shoot your mule for dinner, but fuel for the robot isn't edible.


James September 26, 2013 at 9:52 am

I think it's a great idea to take the weight off of Marines (Hopefully Soldiers too) but why not just do a tracked vehicle much like the tanks are built on? Still a really cool idea though!


blight_ September 26, 2013 at 11:13 am

Tracks will work in most places where infantry can go, but not all. And in Afghanistan, well…


C-Low September 26, 2013 at 10:30 am

This system has allot of potential. Mules are animals that have to be bread trained fed medical etc… very near humans with separate special requirements. Big Dog is robotic, so in peace time you stack them in a warehouse and you can ship them in standard equipment boxes. In wartime they take damage you replace the part , they run on fuel like your vehicles and aircraft, they can generate power which can charge the myriad of batteries, they all act the same no learning mule specific quarks, and most important THEY DON"T GET TIRED.

This thing has mad potential once the bugs get worked out. In the near term I could see one of these things with vest slung on one side and a 50.cal strapped to its back as a mobile fighting position. In the future after this thing has the bugs worked out maybe you can bring back the cavalry of old with men riding these things, talk about putting range and speed into a well unmounted well mounted patrol.


Seriously September 26, 2013 at 11:33 am

Foot Patrols are safer than being mounted (in a vehicle). More eyes on the ground to see potential dangers, and more freedom of movement through the battlefield. Oh and its still cheaper…


mike September 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm

The last time I had a DOG this big, it left land mines the size of a VW Beetle. I guess a drone Dog doesn't Poop? Really if this thing helps our troops; I'm all for it. Maybe they can invent one the size of my Chihuahua to go down rat holes and carry in a camera and leave an explosive to take out the CAVEMEN while still in their holes. It's an idea. . .


dts3204 September 27, 2013 at 8:24 am

Already working on that


Terry Lundby September 27, 2013 at 9:10 am

Legged Squad Support System, LS3. Lassie… Someone in the Department of Acronyms is in for a bonus.


teejaym September 27, 2013 at 9:38 am

Am I seeing exposed hydraulic lines on that robot? Does it come with it's own repair crew and extra parts?


GMan September 27, 2013 at 1:11 pm

BIG-Dog! O.K. big dog sounds somewhat macho I guess, I'd rather go with a live Mule or Buffalo…but hey I'm sitting in my chair sipping coffee at the moment. I couldn't help but recall many years ago in a land far far away..Our plattoon commander talked this old gentlemen farmer into using a couple of his water buffalo's to pack some of our gear a few miles into the bush for us. The gear consisted of 2-81mm mortor tudes base plate's, bi-pod's and ammo…ofcourse we threw-in some other misc items. Upon reaching our site we took a collection and the gentlemen farmer returned home pocketing over a hundred bucks. Many years before that…the Army used mules throughout South East and West Asia, as well as parts of North Africa and Italy….all they needed was TLC and grain and those buggers would go anywhere. My father inlaw and his budy both former Army types, were mule skinners on the Island of Molokai taking dry goods and other misc stuff including tourist down a thousand foot mountain along swithbacks to the Kalapapa settlement, I to grew-up raising and riding horses and mules. Fast forwad to Afghanistan…A few Army SF personnel used donkeys to transport goods in the forward areas there during our the initial push in early 2000.


GMAN September 27, 2013 at 1:12 pm
JD 716 September 27, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Why not have the option to have a .50 cal man operated turret on it, or possibly hellfire rockets. Force multiplier without having the men have to hump the gear. Enough armor plating and it could sit down and provide mobile cover.


OD351 September 27, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Modifications, revisions and spin offs will be interesting to say the least.


Pastadawg October 2, 2013 at 1:23 am

Okay, we had the M274 Mule for many years that carried a lot more stuff and probably over just as rugged of terrain. So, why can't we just upgrade the design of this and go with a reliable system?


haileigh December 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm

i think that this is a VERY good thing to help the military


Lee September 26, 2013 at 5:01 am

And add to that the fact that I remember using the 800 telephone system for free to make calls on the cheap back 46 years ago.


Brian September 27, 2013 at 4:27 pm

To be clear though, the individual teams aren't non-profit.


blight_ September 27, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Found an interesting link from a while ago: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110

"It's not that hard to believe. It's the teams that take in the revenue. The league is just the organization that sells franchises and enforces rules.

The Packers are a nonprofit organization (I'm a shareholder and see the annual financial reports), so it wouldn't surprise me if the NFL is, too.

The only thing non-profit means is that all revenues are plowed back into the organization. It doesn't mean no money is made. It just means there's zero on the balance sheet at the end of the fiscal year, after all salaries and expenses are paid.

The only ones who pull in a profit are probably the owners of the 31 privately owned teams. (The Packers have no single owner, so any profits that would go to an owner on another team are simply put back into the franchise. We Packers shareholders don't get any dividends.)"


guest October 6, 2013 at 11:15 pm

Talking about the marines? They can't spell it even with "Urine"


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