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Land Platforms

US Army advances robotics development

16 October 2019
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The quadruped LLAMA robot is being developed as part of ARL's Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, with researchers believing a quadruped robotic platform would provide new mobility options. Source: US Army

The US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is pursuing a range of upgrades to its Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation (LLAMA) robot, including an effort to boost speed and mobility through system weight reduction, researchers told Jane's .

The autonomous quadruped system was revealed in mid-September, with ARL highlighting its ability to work in concert with soldiers, lightening their physical workloads and increasing their mobility, protection, and lethality.

The system was developed as part of ARL's Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance (RCTA) initiative. While this programme initially focused on wheeled and tracked platforms along with developing the intelligence and perception of autonomous systems, ARL research engineer Jason Pusey said a quadruped robotic platform would provide new mobility options in support of dismounted soldiers.

The goal is to effectively develop a 'robotic dog' that works as part of a team with human operators, Pusey told Jane's . While the use cases for LLAMA have not yet been fully defined, ARL is targeting roles in surveillance and as a platform that can carry payloads, allowing soldiers "to offload some of their gear onto this particular platform".

Pusey also noted that while the first version of LLAMA weighs about 85 kg, a new 75 kg variant is currently in development. The main advantage of this lower weight is increased mobility as well as greater speed and endurance, he said.

LLAMA would be able to operate as part of a group but it would also have the capacity to function autonomously. The soldier could give the robot a command - for example, to travel to a certain point - and LLAMA would do this independently.

ARL is not just focused on the mobility of the system but on its intelligence; both aspects are essential to enable the robot to traverse more complex terrain, a key demand for the quadruped design.

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