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US military abandons plans to use robot mules because they're too noisy

By midian182
Dec 30, 2015
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  1. The day when robots make up part of the US military may be further away than first thought. Following an extended test period during the "Rim of the Pacific" military exercise last year, the Legged Squad Support System project, or LS3, is being shelved. The reason? They're just far too noisy.

    Created by Boston Dynamics before the company was bought by Google in 2013, LS3, more popularly known as ‘AlphaDog,’ is a flexible, agile robot capable of carrying up to 400 pounds of equipment on its back. The machine could run 24 hours straight on a 20-mile mission across rough terrain, taking visual and verbal cues from soldiers to find its way. Unfortunately, one attribute AlphaDog lacks is stealthiness, especially as it uses a gas-powered engine that some claim sounds like an angry swarm of bees.

    "As Marines were using it, there was the challenge of seeing the potential possibility because of the limitations of the robot itself," said Kyle Olson, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab. "They took it as it was: a loud robot that's going to give away their position."

    Although it first appeared in 2008, it was 2012 when DARPA commissioned Boston Dynamics, with a $32 million contract, to build an AlphaDog that could be used by the US military. This version was more resistant to gunfire, able to carry more weight, and quieter than its predecessor. But not quiet enough, it seems.

    Under the same DARPA contract, Boston Dynamics created a less noisy, electrically-powered four-legged robot called Spot. While it was much stealthier than AlphaDog, Spot needed to be controlled by a driver at all times and was only able to carry about 40 pounds of equipment, meaning it wasn't much use to the military.

    "I see Spot right now as more of a ground reconnaissance asset," Captain James Pineiro, the Ground Combat Element branch head for the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com. "The problem is, Spot in its current configuration doesn't have the autonomy to do that. It has the ability to walk in its environment, but it's completely controller-driven."

    The retirement of L3 and Spot doesn’t mean an end to the military’s experiments with robots. A spokesperson said that the marine corps recognizes "the necessity of autonomous, unmanned, and robotic capabilities" to gain a "tactical edge through technological overmatch."

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  2. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,565   +2,373

    They should be loaded up with automated guns, packed with explosives, and sent out to harass jihadis. Given the Islamic view of canines, Islamic combatants being terrorized by roaming packs of robotic dogs would be quite the punch line.
     
  3. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,559   +599

    You'd think the "too much noise" deterrent would be obvious before shelling out 32 million to test it out.
     
  4. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 1,684   +791

    I don't completely buy the noise analysis. There are a number of ways to quiet down the device. I think the real reason came from the top brass since this thing just had no way to stick it's head up their *** ...... no?
     
    Reehahs and stewi0001 like this.
  5. amstech

    amstech TechSpot Enthusiast Posts: 1,457   +606

    They need to consult with Stark Industries.
     
  6. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,156   +1,431

    The way this thing looks and sounds, I would only use it for suicide missions.

    Load this pig up with explosives, and send it over, like a short-lived Trojan.
     
  7. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,185   +530

    I still think they are pretty awesome and a good step forward. I would bet that there are other industries that could put them to good use. Heck, use it for hiking and camping.

    Also, I think these robots could put AT-ATs to shame, you know if they were on the same size scale.
     
  8. lripplinger

    lripplinger TS Addict Posts: 260   +90

    Yay, more taxpayer money wasted to fill the pockets of the military industrial complex which keeps trying to convince the military to buy all this garbage they don't need. Its just like with the joke of an F35 fighter program.
     
    Sphynx likes this.
  9. Rieksfier

    Rieksfier TS Rookie

    For 32 million they could've at least made it "hee haw" and it kick it's hind legs a few times.
     

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