DARPA’s “Cheetah” Sets Land Speed Record for Legged Robots

The use of ground robots in bomb disposal missions already saves many lives and prevents thousands of other casualties. If the current limitations on mobility and manipulation can be overcome, robots could far more effectively assist the military across a greater range of missions. DARPA’s Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program seeks to create and demonstrate major scientific and engineering advances that could achieve this goal.

The video below shows a demonstration of the “Cheetah” robot galloping at speeds of up to 18 mph (29 km/h), setting a new land speed record for legged robots. The previous record was 13.1 mph (21 km/h), set in 1989.

The robot’s movements are modelled on those of fast-running animals in nature. The machine increases its stride and speed by flexing and un-flexing its back on each step, much as an actual cheetah does.

The current version runs on a laboratory treadmill where it is powered by an off-board hydraulic pump, and uses a boom-like device to keep it running in the centre of the treadmill. Testing of a free-running prototype is planned for later this year.

While the M3 program conducts basic research and is not focused on specific military missions, the technology it aims to develop could have a wide range of potential military applications.

The contractor for DARPA is Boston Dynamics, who also designed the “BigDog” and “PETMAN”.

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