U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific

 

U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific

In Any Clime and Place

Meeting LS3: Marines experiment with military robotics

By Sgt. Sarah Dietz | U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific | July 16, 2014

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Lance Cpl. Brandon Dieckmann, infantryman with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and native of Las Vegas, manuevers the Legged Squad Support System via remote control through a grassy area at Kahuku Training Area, July 12, 2014, during the Rim of the Pacific 2014 exercise. The LS3 is experimental technology being tested by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab during the Advanced Warfighting Experiment portion of RIMPAC. It is programmed to follow an operator through terrain, carrying heavy loads like water and food to Marines training. There are multiple technologies being tested during RIMPAC, the largest maritime exercise in the Pacific region. This year's RIMPAC features 22 countries and around 25,000 people. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Dietz/Released)

Lance Cpl. Brandon Dieckmann, infantryman with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and native of Las Vegas, manuevers the Legged Squad Support System via remote control through a grassy area at Kahuku Training Area, July 12, 2014, during the Rim of the Pacific 2014 exercise. The LS3 is experimental technology being tested by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab during the Advanced Warfighting Experiment portion of RIMPAC. It is programmed to follow an operator through terrain, carrying heavy loads like water and food to Marines training. There are multiple technologies being tested during RIMPAC, the largest maritime exercise in the Pacific region. This year's RIMPAC features 22 countries and around 25,000 people. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Dietz/Released) (Photo by Sgt. Sarah Dietz)


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Lance Cpl. Brandon Dieckmann, infantryman with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and native of Las Vegas, leads the Legged Squad Support System through a grassy area at Kahuku Training Area, July 12, 2014, during the Rim of the Pacific 2014 exercise. The LS3 is experimental technology being tested by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab during the Advanced Warfighting Experiment. It is programmed to follow an operator through terrain, carrying heavy loads like water and food to Marines training. There are multiple technologies being tested during RIMPAC, the largest maritime exercise in the Pacific region. This year's RIMPAC features 22 countries and around 25,000 people. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew Callahan/RELEASED)

Lance Cpl. Brandon Dieckmann, infantryman with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and native of Las Vegas, leads the Legged Squad Support System through a grassy area at Kahuku Training Area, July 12, 2014, during the Rim of the Pacific 2014 exercise. The LS3 is experimental technology being tested by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab during the Advanced Warfighting Experiment. It is programmed to follow an operator through terrain, carrying heavy loads like water and food to Marines training. There are multiple technologies being tested during RIMPAC, the largest maritime exercise in the Pacific region. This year's RIMPAC features 22 countries and around 25,000 people. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew Callahan/RELEASED) (Photo by Cpl. Matthew Callahan)


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KAHUKU TRAINING AREA, Hawaii - Lance Cpl. Brandon Dieckmann, an infantryman with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, India Co., leads the Legged Squad Support System through an open field at Kahuku Training Area July 10, 2014. The LS3 is experimental technology being tested by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab as part of the Advanced Warfighting Experiment during Rim of the Pacific 2014.  There are multiple technologies being tested during RIMPAC, the largest maritime exercise in the Pacific region. This year's RIMPAC features 22 countries and around 25,000 people. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Dietz/RELEASED)

KAHUKU TRAINING AREA, Hawaii - Lance Cpl. Brandon Dieckmann, an infantryman with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, India Co., leads the Legged Squad Support System through an open field at Kahuku Training Area July 10, 2014. The LS3 is experimental technology being tested by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab as part of the Advanced Warfighting Experiment during Rim of the Pacific 2014. There are multiple technologies being tested during RIMPAC, the largest maritime exercise in the Pacific region. This year's RIMPAC features 22 countries and around 25,000 people. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Dietz/RELEASED) (Photo by Sgt. Sarah Dietz)


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KAHUKU TRAINING AREA, Hawaii --

The Legged Squad Support System has taken five years in concept developed by Boston Dynamics and $2 million to create. It is now being thrown into the heart of Kahuku Training Area – completely controlled and field tested by five young Marines from India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

The LS3 is a robotic mule, capable of traversing rugged terrain with Marines while carrying much of their load. It is programmed to follow an operator and detect large terrain objects to maneuver around.

The testing for the LS3 is being observed by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab during the Advanced Warfighting Experiment as part of Rim of the Pacific 2014, a military multilateral training event featuring 22 nations and roughly 25,000 people.

Lance Cpl. Brandon Dieckmann, a native of Las Vegas, remembers watching clips of the LS3 on Youtube before he joined the infantry. He said he never would have guessed he would be chosen to operate the machine, which has been affectionately nicknamed “Cujo” by his company.

“The reality (is that it's) a walking robot and quadrupedal robotic legs are something that can be done (stood out to me),” Dieckmann said.

“They randomly chose us to operate it, probably because I wear glasses.”

The Marines used “Cujo” to conduct resupply missions to the various platoons around the training area. The LS3 brought water to service members in terrain difficult to reach by all-terrain vehicles.

“I was surprised how well it works,” Dieckmann said. “I thought it was going to be stumbling around and lose its footing, but it’s actually proven to be pretty reliable and pretty rugged. It has a bit of a problem negotiating obliques and contours of hills.”

The LS3 is being used as a logistical tool during RIMPAC as opposed to a tactical tool, due to its loud noise during movement and problems traversing certain terrains.

“I’d say 70 to 80 percent of the terrain we go through, it can go through,” Dieckmann said. “There are times when it is going to fall over, but most of the time it can self-right and get back up on its own. Even if it doesn’t, it can take one person to roll it back over. The way it is designed is that you can easily roll it back over.”

However, the robotic mule is still in development. Dieckmann said creating more space within the LS3 for equipment, like heavy weapons systems, would be beneficial for quicker movement in a field or combat environment.

Some of the Marines have grown attached to Cujo. In particular, Pfc. Huberth Duarte, an infantryman with India Co., 3/3, and an operator for the LS3, says the robotic mule has become like a dog to him. He also mentioned the controls are simple to learn and have joy sticks. He said it “feels like playing Call of Duty.”

Putting the LS3 in the hands of young Marines is vital to the development of the program, said Ben Spies, a contractor with Boston Dynamics observing the AWE.

“We give the military hands-on so we can see what they will use it for instead of putting it in a parking lot,” Spies said. “This is the first time we put the LS3 in a training environment like this. They push it to the max. It helps us develop it more, because right now, only the engineers have it.”

Dieckmann also said he looks forward to seeing future developments of the program.

“It would pretty crazy to see a later version of it 15-20 years down the line and be able to say I was one of the first groups that tested it and brought it to the field on one of the bigger training exercises,” Dieckmann said. “It’s pretty surreal.”