The use of ground robots in military explosive-ordinance-disposal missions has saved many lives and prevents thousands of other casualties. According to DARPA the current limitations on mobility and manipulation capabilities of robots can be overcome, and as a result robots could more effectively assist warfighters across a greater range of missions.
DARPA’s Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program seeks to create and demonstrate significant scientific and engineering advances in robot mobility and manipulation capabilities.
The agency – which is run by the Pentagon – funded the Massachusetts robotics company Boston Dynamics to build the machine.
The robot”s movements have been modelled on wild fast-running animals and the machine can flex and un-flex its back to increase the length of its stride. While the current version is dependent on an off-board hydraulic pump, researchers said a free-running prototype was planned for later this year.
The project which was commissioned in February 2011, aims to deliver a robot which can “zigzag to chase and evade”, and be able to come to an abrupt halt.
Boston Dynamics” design is based on earlier work that included the BigDog rough-terrain robot, which was designed to recycle energy from one step to the next, and the lizard-like Rise, which was designed to climb walls, trees and fences by using micro-claws on its six feet and a tail for balance.
The M3 program is focused on four parallel tracks of research and development: tool design, improvement of production methods and processes, improvement in control of robot mobility and manipulation, and prototype demonstration.