LS3 will go where wheeled and tracked vehicles cannot.
(Illustration courtesy of Boston Dynamics)
||NREC To Provide Perception,
Footstep Planning for LS3
PITTSBURGH, March 19, 2010 – Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) are adding perception and footstep planning to the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), a legged, all-terrain robot that will carry equipment and supplies for dismounted soldiers and Marines.
“NREC’s extensive experience in autonomous systems makes them a critical team member,” said Dr. Marc Raibert, founder and President of Boston Dynamics, which is developing LS3 for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
NREC’s rugged, lightweight system will enable LS3 to find and map boulders, ditches, trees and other hazards; follow individual soldiers; find stable footholds; and operate autonomously for up to 24 hours at a stretch.
“We are excited to work with DARPA and the Boston Dynamics team on the LS3 program,” said Dr. Anthony Stentz, NREC’s Associate Director and the project’s principal investigator. “The LS3 program is a great opportunity for NREC to apply its autonomous vehicle technology to a legged platform.”
LS3 is designed to traverse narrow and steep trails, dense woods, and other places where wheeled and tracked vehicles cannot go. It will carry up to 400 pounds of gear and enough fuel to travel as far as 20 miles on missions up to 24 hours long. The first LS3 units will be delivered in 2012.
NREC researchers are developing a head filled with sensors that LS3 will use to scan the area to its front, simultaneously looking downward and forward to spot hazards. Every ounce counts for the sensor head, which must meet LS3’s strict power, weight, and performance requirements, be sturdy enough to survive crashes and rough use, and operate in all weather conditions.
NREC researchers will port perception software originally developed for the UPI program to LS3, enabling it to locate and identify slopes, vegetation, rocks and other terrain features. Software designed for the large, stable Crusher vehicle must be adapted to the small, legged LS3, whose gait may cause the head to sway and rock more than sensors on the Crusher vehicle. NREC will work closely with researchers from Boston Dynamics and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to fuse this data with GPS and other estimates of position, creating maps that LS3 will use to navigate. This will enable LS3 to interpret the terrain it walks through and plan routes to complete its missions.
LS3 will also use data from the perception system to track and follow individual soldiers. No special devices or clothing will be needed for the soldiers.
Additionally, perception system data will help LS3 to move more efficiently. LS3 will be able to spot good, stable footholds and avoid bad, unstable footholds while walking and running.