Looking like something out of a fantasy film, headless robotic mules gallop through fields with no human masters in sight, antennae sticking up from their necks like spikes. Known as the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), these ‘highly mobile, semi-autonomous’ robots were developed by the U.S. military to reduce the load carried by soldiers in rugged terrain.
The cow-sized LS3 can transport up to 400 pounds of gear, and travel 20 miles without needing a refuel. Individual soldiers often have to carry as much as 100 pounds of gear on their backs as they navigate terrain on foot. The result of a decade of research, this robot mule is an improvement over previous ‘AlphaDog’ robots that were incredible loud, though it’s still noisy and a bit clumsy. See it in action below.
The LS3 can go where other military vehicles can’t, navigating ditches, streams and slopes. When it does lose its footing – as can be seen in the video – it gets right back up. It responds to voice commands, and can follow a human guide, which will be one of its most important features when tagging along with marines in the field.
LS3 was created by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency of the United States Department of Defense. It’s currently battery-powered, and DARPA envisions it acting like a mobile recharging station for U.S. troops.