Boston Dynamics has just received a serious injection of cash to upgrade its Legged Squad Support System (LS3) pack mule. The challenge now is to make it quieter and resistant to small arms fire. Yeah, about that...
The LS3 is currently capable of hauling 400 pounds of supplies over 20 miles on a single tank of fuel. It can also autonomously follow a human operator (it can respond to verbal and visual commands) and be programmed to travel to a designated location using GPS. But its gas powered hydraulic pump makes it hideously noisy, which would be a problem in combat situations; the robotic pack mule is intended to "unburden dismounted squad members by carrying their gear."
For Phase 2, the Pentagon, via DARPA, has given Boston Dynamics another $10 million to keep working on the project. The upgraded version will need to be more reliable and usable, be capable of surviving small arms fire, and feature a quiet power supply to support stealthy tactical operations.
Boston Dynamics is expected to roll this version out at the end of March 2015.
We can hardly wait.
Here's a video demonstration of the current model: