Boston Dynamics will design and develop a new soldier load-carrying system known as the “legged squad support system” (LS3) under a new $32m contract awarded by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The LS3 programme aims to develop a deployable self-directed walking quadruped platform that will augment squads by carrying traditional and new equipment into complex terrains.

The LS3 platforms, which will weigh around 1,250lb, can carry a 400lb or more payload, and provide 24 hours of self-sustained capability over as much as 20 miles of manoeuvres.

The system is expected to have sufficient payload capacity, range, endurance, and low noise signature for dismounted squad support, while keeping weight and volume scaled to the squad level.

In addition, the programme will also develop control techniques that allow walking, trotting, running / bounding and other discrete mobility features. It will also create the ability to perceive and traverse its immediate terrain environment autonomously with simple methods of marine / soldier control.

The developmental programme is a joint effort between DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO) and the US Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.

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Upon completion of the 30-month initial LS3 design and build phase, DARPA and the marine corps will review the results for a complete LS3 integration and experimentation with operational platforms.

Partner companies for Boston Dynamics on the LS3 programme include Bell Helicopter, AAI Corporation, Carnegie Mellon University, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Woodward HRT.