The United States Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is upgrading its Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation (LLAMA) robot, with an effort to boost speed and mobility through system weight reduction. In mid-September, the US-ARL divulged the autonomous quadruped system, highlighting its ability to work in concert with soldiers, easing their physical workloads and augmenting their mobility, protection, and lethality.
As the system was developed as part of ARL’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance (RCTA) initiative, this programme initially focused on wheeled and tracked platforms along with the development of the intelligence and perception of autonomous systems. According to ARL research Engineer Jason Pusey, 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,” he added.
While the first version of LLAMA weighs about 85 kg, a new 75 kg variant is currently in the developing phase. This lower weight allows increased mobility along with greater speed and endurance. However, the use cases for LLAMA have not yet been fully defined, but Army Research Laboratory is targeting roles in surveillance and as a platform that can carry payloads, enabling soldiers to offload some of their gear onto this particular platform.
Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation (LLAMA) robot would be able to operate as part of a soldiers’ group but it would also have the capacity to function autonomously. The soldiers could give the robot a command, for instance, to travel to a certain point, and LLAMA would perform this independently.
The US Army Research Laboratory is not just focused on the mobility of the system but on its intelligence as well. Both aspects are significant to enable the robot to navigate more complex terrain, a key demand for the quadruped design.
This is not the first time the US Army is experimenting with robots for their squad. Recently, a business unit of General Dynamics – General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) – revealed its proposal for the U.S. Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle acquisition project.
As part of the Army’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program, the new Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCVs) will join the ‘big six’ priorities of the service that consists of long-range precision fires, Future Vertical Lift, the network, air and missile defense, and Soldier lethality.
As per the reports, the new combat vehicles also will have cutting-edge features such as a remote turret for the 25 mm main gun or more lethality weapon systems, 360-degree situational awareness cameras and advanced remote stations. These RCVs will also be able to keep pace with soldiers and other armored vehicles during off-road maneuver and movement on paved streets and highways.