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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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