DARPA lets slip the AlphaDog of war

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency released new footage of its AlphaDog this week, a technological marvel of emerging technology that could turn the tide of battle, or at least carry a lot of heavy gear for soldiers.

Technically designated the Legged Squad Support System (L3), the AlphaDog can traverse rough terrain, plow through underbrush, follow soldiers in the field, act as a charging station for radios, and generally scare the hell out of any enemy soldier it comes across. Its original concept was to simply replace pack mules, which are still being used in some part of the world. But it’s become a lot more than that.

The L3 is stuffed with sensors that allow wireless control and enough processing power to perform small tasks on its own, such as righting itself should it fall down, which is shown on the video. It has some voice recognition capabilities too, and you know soldiers are going to want to tell it to “sit,” “beg,” and “roll over.”

The current version is 800-pounds, but can carry 400-pounds of gear for 20 miles without further intervention. Previous models were loud, but this one just emits a low humming sound, except when it’s crashing through miles of underbrush, of course. It’s still no ninja.

And as essentially a pack mule, it’s not quick, walking at 1 to 3 miles per hour, jogging at 5 mph and, eventually, getting up to 7 mph over a flat surface, DARPA says. That’s a far cry from DARPA’s CheetahBot, which recently hit a record speed of 28.3 mph, faster than the 27.78 mph Usain Bolt topped out at during his world record 100-meter run.

In all, though, the new L3 is pretty amazing. It’s at least two years of testing away from getting certified for use by the Marines, which is the military branch most interested in this new technology.

But I have to say, as much as I like the L3, I love my original, slightly more ridiculous, M.U.L.E. better. It’s been carrying my gear and helping me colonize planets since 1983.

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Reader Comments

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 Doug Fort Drum

That thing is horribly loud! It sounds like one of those electric chainsaws. There is no way that thing is quiet enough as it is in the video. The concept is a cool idea though. I'm curious to see what its limitations are in terms of the kind of terrain it can handle. Can it jump small gaps? walk across narrow plank bridges? how about climb up even steeper terrain than what is in this video? how does it handle water?


Mack, the whole purpose of the system was for it to walk on uneven and mountainous terrain where wheeled robots couldn't go. Apparently you have never had the pleasure of dismounting and havaing to walk up steep mountains like the hindu kush in eastern Afghanistan with radios, ammo, crew served weapons, rations, batteries, body armor, etc. Hopefully they can get this perfected in the next several years and actually get it deployed.

Thu, Sep 13, 2012

I want one

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 Mack Knife

So, what happens 20 miles into the patrol when it runs out of fuel? Is someone carrying more fuel? Do they just leave it there waiting for a new master? It just seems to me that this is an answer for the problem that doesn't exist. If it makes any noise at all it is too loud. If noise is acceptable, then using a wheeled vehicle is a better solution. I can see it now, a long range patrol and at wakeup the dogbot is gone. In the night, someone ran up and called out...here kitty kitty.

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