December 29, 2015

That's about it for the military's robo-dog.

"It was designed to carry at least 400 pounds of supplies and be able to follow Marines through rugged terrain that regular vehicles wouldn’t be able to traverse, like a robotic pack mule." But it was gas-powered and too noisy. They tried a smaller one with an electric engine, but it could only carry 40 pounds, less than half the weight a Marine carries. Not much use. The project is now abandoned, but here's how it looked back when the dream of a military robo-dog lived:

24 comments:

Original Mike said...

Strap a bomb on a bunch of these things and send them into Mosul.

buwaya said...

The same old power supply problem that has kept powered armor suits in the realm of science fiction.

Its interesting that the data processing and mechanical/interface problems have been effectively solved in many of these science-fictional cases - powered armor or all-terrain battlefield robots or jet-packs - but the more fundamental technology block of a portable power supply is still there. This has been the situation for many decades.

LYNNDH said...

Ah, go all electric with battery pack and small solar panel. Another military invention that could be used in civilian life.

The Cracker Emcee said...

Should be tracked. Some engineer heard "dog" and took it literally, in an anthropomorphic, geeky, engineer kind of way.

Chuck said...

I would have preferred it if some nutball gajillionaire from Sunnyvale had wasted his own money on this, instead of the DoD in a time of budget sequestration.

Chuck said...

I would have preferred it if some nutball gajillionaire from Sunnyvale had wasted his own money on this, instead of the DoD in a time of budget sequestration.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Just as well. This multi-million dollar system could easily be rendered useless by $1.99 wind-up robo-squirrel

hoyden said...

If Liberals had developed this it would be put into production with Government grants and favorable bureaucratic regulation. We would be stuck supporting it til the cows came home.

At least with Military and Free Enterprise when something fails the effort is discontinued and we don't end up having to support it forever.

Bruce Hayden said...

At least with Military and Free Enterprise when something fails the effort is discontinued and we don't end up having to support it forever.

Not sure if I agree with that, esp. when it comes to military systems. The AF, and to some extent the Navy, are locked into the F-35, which is too fragile and way too expensive. And, to pay for it, they are killing everything else, including, as usual, the A-10 that is so much better as a close support aircraft. And, the Navy continues to build mega-carriers, as the ChiComs continue to work on ways to take them out, and the rest of the Navy hollows out. But, we shouldn't leave other parts of the govt out - for example, the grossly overpriced NASA Shuttle that took most of the agency's billions for so many decades.

Quaestor said...

Since it was about as large as a mule and was intended to do the valuable job pack mules did for U.S. soldiers and Marines during WWII and the Korean War, the LS3 prototype was widely known as Robo-Mule. NBC's web editors have a better headline for their report the the one Quartz came up with: Robot Mule Put Out to Pasture.

Solution: Make sure the Marine Corps have some real mules ready to hand. Heck, Obama wastes more taxpayer money on greens fees than a battalion of mules would cause to board and train.

The story of Korean War hero, SSGT Reckless. (Have hanky ready)

Quaestor said...

Mules in WWII combat, Burma-India Theater

Bruce Hayden said...

I am actually a bit more optimistic than some here. The control systems for this sort of thing have come an immensely long ways. Getting something like this to walk across broken ground is quite difficult. And, yes, I think that powered armor is also coming our way. But, maybe a better implementation might be a powered robot with a machine gun and sensors. Highly accurate, able to see in low light, or no light, and portable. Right now, we need an operator per mobile robot. But, networking is getting better, and soon, we may be able to trust fully autonomous groups of these.

Which, I think, is to say that we have come a long way in terms of being able to get these systems to be able to move as we need them to. We need a better power system, but I think that too is coming. Still best to have dumped most everything, esp. since the military tends to get locked into yesterday's designs, and needs something like this to break them loose.

The Godfather said...

They shouldn't have called it a "dog" if it was meant to serve as a pack animal. "Robo-mule" would have made more sense. On the other hand, because it was doomed from the git-go not to work, maybe "dog" was prophetic.

JRoberts said...

If Tom Coburn was still in the Senate we would know how much taxpayer money went into the Robo-Shovel to clean up after the Robo-Dog.

Quaestor said...

Corrections:
1) NBC's web editors have a better headline for their report than the one Quartz came up with: Robot Mule Put Out to Pasture.

2) Solution: Make sure the Marine Corps have some real mules ready to hand. Heck, Obama wastes more taxpayer money on greens fees than a battalion of mules would cost to board and train.

Sorry for the typos. Rough night, hard morrow.

Fabi said...

Canine appropriation?

Saint Croix said...

that's a great movie right there

Robodog

Robodog is off the leash!

Rusty said...

Chuck said...
I would have preferred it if some nutball gajillionaire from Sunnyvale had wasted his own money on this, instead of the DoD in a time of budget sequestration.

DARPA offered a prize. The prize was to get someone else to spend the money to develop this. I don't mind taxpayer money being spent in this way since the bulk of the Rand D costs are bourne by the developer.
It will be back.

Skeptical Voter said...

The Marines have actually had a few mules recently. They've got a mountain training station in the Eastern Sierras, and there are some pack mules there. But I haven't heard of an instance where the Marines actually used mules in a combat zone in the last 25 years or so.

The Godfather said...

A little off topic, but in The Last Parallel, Martin Russ's memoir of his year as a Marine in the trenches in Korea, he recounts that he proposed to the higher-ups that patrols into no man's land be supplied with horses, to be used for a fast getaway after they were detected by the Norks. The proposal was not adopted. BTW, The Last Parallel, although out of print, is available through Amazon, and his more recent Korean War book, Breakout, can also be found there, through the Althouse link. Both are well worth reading.

coupe said...

I would have made it nuclear powered. Along with a dirty-bomb self-destruct mechanism. That way if all the Marines are killed, the dog is still valuable as a weapon.

The supplies would be plentiful, only irradiated :-)

Trashhauler said...

We need us some of that there unobtanium fuel. Or maybe we could stick a windmill in its nether regions.

Bobby said...

Skeptical Voter,

"The Marines have actually had a few mules recently. They've got a mountain training station in the Eastern Sierras, and there are some pack mules there. But I haven't heard of an instance where the Marines actually used mules in a combat zone in the last 25 years or so."

That's the Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC), colloquially known as "Bridgeport," because that's the California city nearest to the facility. Its elevation is 7000 feet, and the training area climbs another 4000 feet or so (and higher when they use Shasta) -- it's cold all year round, and most military aircraft have a hard time flying up there. It caters as much to the SOF community as to the Marines, and lots of multinational partners train there as well.

The SOF community (which now includes MARSOC) has definitely used both horses and mules in numerous real-world missions in the last 25 years. If you're asking about "conventional" Marines (i.e., MEUs, SPMAGTFs, FASTs, or even just Infantry Regiments deployed to Iraq/Afghanistan), it'd be far fewer (if at all) and not as a matter of general practice. I could find out for you, though.

mikee said...

Marines may not take US mules into combat, but when they go into combat there may just be mules and donkeys and camels around, used by the opposition or even US allies. So knowing how to use such beasts of burdern and how to treat them right is good info for Marines.