7 bizarre robots in the Pentagon's defense budget

Illustration for article titled 7 bizarre robots in the Pentagons defense budget

One part of the Department of Defense is hard at work researching technology that is alternately amazing, bizarre, and downright scary.


You may not be familiar with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, more commonly known as "DARPA," but the robotic creations it brings under the wing of the U.S. defense budget are often on the cutting-edge of weird. In honor of Skynet Day, we bring you some of the craziest DARPA robots that may someday be our new overlords.

DARPA was founded in 1958 as a response to the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite and has since funded "revolutionary, high-payoff research" to keep the Pentagon supplied with the latest in defense-flavored tech. From a fluttering hummingbird-shaped spy drone to more than a few motorized automatons that move in ways uncanny, these projects should help you sleep at night...in theory.

1. BigDog

BigDog, developed by BostonDynamics, is quadruped robot intended to haul, climb, and carry its way over rough terrain. While the buzzing noise that BigDog emits makes this robotic beast all the more unsettling, the real kicker is watching BigDog recover from a fall on slippery ice.

2. Nano hummingbird drone

This robotic ornithopter might not take the most inconspicuous shape, but it can hover aloft to fulfill your spying needs for 8 minutes straight, darting off at a brisk 11 miles an hour if any onlooker becomes the wiser. Developed by AeroVironment, this little fella has a contract with DARPA for its reconnaissance and surveillance applications.

3. LittleDog

LittleDog may not have the raw, unsettling oomphof its big brother, but its beetle-like form and successful rock-climbing (scrabbling?) skills make it no less impressive.

4. RiSE climbing robot

We're not sure what kind of surveillance opportunities await the RiSE robot, developed by a team at Carnegie Mellon, but we do know we wouldn't want to run into one of these things scaling its way up...well, anything. The RiSE is a "bioinspired climbing robot" intended to walk on land and climb vertically, two activities it seems to execute with eery aplomb.

5. PetMan

PetMan is the bipedal sibling of BigDog, reportedly developed to test chemical protection suits for the U.S. Army. PetMan simulates both human movement mechanics and human physiology precisely - it will can even sweat in hot environments.

6. Crusher unmanned ground vehicle

The Crusher is an autonomous, unmanned off-road vehicle that takes after a tank more than most of these other more biologically-inclined robots. Developed at Carnegie Mellon, it weighs 6.4 tons and packs plenty of on-board electronics - like laser range-finders and an advanced GPS system - to help it navigate over rough terrain.

7. BigDog weaponized...with horns

If BigDog's eerily sophisticated mechanical abilities and ominous buzzing sound have you a little on edge, maybe this lo-tech "weaponized" version of BigDog will make you feel better? Then again, maybe not.

Illustration for article titled 7 bizarre robots in the Pentagons defense budget

This post originally appeared on Tecca, which helps you get the best from the personal technology in your life.

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Take about 100 Big Dogs, pack them full of C4, and send them charging full speed at the Taliban. That would be fun...