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Marines Operate Robotic “Pack Mule”

Watch “With The Gear” as Lance Cpl. Clayton Filipowicz gives us a firsthand look at the LS3.

Infantrymen operated a four-legged robot designed to help carry fighting loads on the battlefield during testing Nov. 6 at Fort Devens, Mass.

Marines with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment test the capabilities of the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), aboard Fort Devens, Ma., Nov. 5, 2013.

Marines with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, test the capabilities of the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), aboard Fort Devens, Mass., Nov. 5, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Michael Walters/Released)

After a quick class to learn about the Legged Squad Support System’s controls and wearable sensors, the Marines went walking with the robot, which can either follow the operator or proceed in a programmed line of travel.

“At first I thought it was going to be really complicated to operate, but it turned out to be really simple,” said Pfc. Marcus Beedle, a rifleman serving with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

Created by Boston Dynamics, the robot is designed to reduce the load Marines haul on their backs without interfering with the team’s mission.

“It’s basically a robotic pack mule,” said Kevin Blankespoor, chief engineer of the LS3 project. “The goal of this machine is go to where the warfighter goes while carrying their load.”

The 1,300-pound robot is equipped with three joints on each leg to provide optimal mobility, and inside the body is a single-cylinder, four-stroke gasoline engine.

Pfc. Marcus Beedle, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, operates the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), at Fort Devens, Mass., Nov. 5, 2013.

Pfc. Marcus Beedle, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, operates the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), at Fort Devens, Mass., Nov. 5, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Michael Walters/Released)

Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory created the control and computation sensors, which track two black strips on the back of the operator and recognize terrain like rocks, trees and bushes. The robot can decide whether to continue through an obstacle or walk around it.

The Marines gave feedback to the robot’s development team, whose members said the robot has undergone drastic improvements since its beginning, and engineers are already working on improvements to mobility, stealth, and protection.

Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Killea, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab commanding general, said that the Marines testing the robot saw its value.

“If you ask them if they want 400 pounds off their backs, I think they’d be in agreement with that, whether that’s ammunition or supplies,” said Killea. “We feel like it’s going to get there. The technology has come a long way.”

Marines with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, test the capabilities of the Legged Squad Support System, or LS3, at Fort Devens, Mass., Nov. 5, 2013. The LS3 is developed by Boston Dynamics with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and can hold upwards of 400 pounds. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Michael Walters/Released)

Marines with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, test the capabilities of the Legged Squad Support System, or LS3, at Fort Devens, Mass., Nov. 5, 2013. The LS3 is developed by Boston Dynamics with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and can hold upwards of 400 pounds. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Michael Walters/Released)

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  • Samuel Suggs

    He, actually does have something to do with military procurment, in a can kill programs can push to start programs sort of way.

  • Sean

    I’m pretty sure the Marines are smart enough to know that it makes too much noise to use in situations where stealth is needed. This is just technology to make things easier. I’m pretty sure Marines didn’t think they were becoming weaker just because they upgraded from muskets to breach loaders to magazine-fed rifles. Marines evolve with the times, that’s why they’re the best in the world. They’ll keep working on this and pretty soon we’ll have more efficient, “tactical” versions of this.

    P.S.- Obama has nothing to do with military applications.

  • SneakyZaku .

    I imagine this is only a test? hopefully this technology can be improved upon, could be invaluable in moving injured troops in rocky terrain, and as a general purpose carrier of baggage. :3

  • Adolf Hitler

    guns are loud therefore they have no practical real world tactical application unless you want the enemy to find us.

  • noa

    I disagree they are better than you will ever be

  • Matt Carlson

    WOW….What is the Corps coming to? This is the stupidest thing i have seen so far. Marines have been humping our gear and our fallen since our birth no reason to change that now. Its LOUD therefore no practical real world tactical application unless you want the enemy to find us. Looks like something the Army would use….so sell it to them they dont have any real would application anyways. Is this an Obama invention?

  • Matt Carlson

    WOW what is the Corps coming to…..seems like something the army would use. Faults—it seems kinda loud to be used in any real life tactical situation dont want to draw the enemy to us, what happens when it runs out of gas and a Marine gets shot refueling it? Marines are Marines we have humped our gear since the beginning of time we dont need this crap now. SELL IT TO THE ARMY WHERE IT BELONGS.

  • Amanda

    Wow that Clayton Filipowicz is so handsome