Ever since man began killing man in an organized fashion – i.e. the rise of armies – political and military leaders have struggled with the problem of how to keep them supplied. As Napoleon himself stated in the early 19th century, “An army marches on its stomach”. Since his time, things have not improved drastically. Even with the advent of the steam train, trucks and airplanes, a fully-loaded soldier must still carry upwards of 90 lbs of equipment on their backs. Not an easy task, especially when marching through particularly hot, wet, or rugged terrain.
Well it just so happens that DARPA and the United States Marine Corps might be in possession of something that can help real soon. A few years back, they awarded a contract to an engineering firm named Boston Dynamics to develop a prototype for Darpa’s Legged Squad Support System (LS3). This system calls for a walking quadruped robot that will augment squads by being able to carry equipment autonomously over the kinds of complex terrain where traditional tactical vehicles can’t go.
The walker will reportedly be able to carry a payload of 40o pounds over as much as 20 miles and provide 24 hours of self-sustained capability. In addition, it requires no drivers or remote controllers, since it will be fitted with remote sensors that will allow it to follow the team leader, and a GPS so it can travel to predesignated coordinates. Already, the prototype LS3 has taken its first steps, and the USMC hopes to have some in the field sometime this decade.
One has to wonder… is the beginning of AT-AT walkers and other Star Wars stuff? If so, then I’m thinking we might just be seeing some prototypes for hover cars and lightsabers very soon. Like many fanboys, I was a little kid when the originals came out. Now, like them, I’m in my thirties and thinking I’ve waited long enough! Check out the video below to see the LS3 in action: