A high speed military robot design is being developed by Boston Dynamics, with funding supplied by DARPA – the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Called the Cheetah, the robot resembles its real-life counterpart and is due to be unveiled in late 2012.
The Cheetah robo-cat will reportedly be capable of travelling at a maximum of 30 miles per hour, in the first instance. That’s less than half the speed of an actual cheetah, but beyond the capabilities of a battlefield troop weighed down with military equipment, if not most humans.
Cheetah High Speed Robot
The Cheetah high speed robot will also boast an articulated head, a spine that can flex and the ability to rapidly change direction and manoeuvre around corners.
All of this gives it significant battlefield potential but it’s envisaged that the design won’t enter direct US military service. Rather, according to Boston Dynamics, it will likely be used as a proof of concept platform for future technologies.
While 30 miles per hour is the short-term speed target, the firm’s President has hinted that the Cheetah could do even more. “There’s no fundamental reason why it can’t go as fast as the animals [i.e. 60 to 70 mph], but it will take a while to get there”, Marc Raibert was quoted by the Boston Herald as having said.
The design could also have applications beyond pure military use - fire-fighting, hi-tech agriculture and emergency response work could all be within its capabilities.
The DARPA Cheetah robo-cat funding represents part of the organisation’s wider Maximum Mobility and Manipulation Program. This is concerned with advancing and developing new robotic technologies and, alongside the Cheetah, the agency is also financing Boston Dynamics’ Atlas project.
Atlas is a human-like robot that will specialise in rugged missions that involve hostile ground, tight spaces and crawling.
Boston Dynamics is well known for its BigDog design, and its other robotic products and collaborations have been covered in previous Armed Forces International News Items. In February last year, we looked at its Legged Squad Support System – a vast military troop support robot design.
Prior to that, we reported on something at the other end of the size-scale – the Precision Urban Hopper.
Cheetah image courtesy of Boston Dynamics (C) 2011
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