Terrain-learning robots to be tested by Army

ADELPHI, Md. The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's Army Research Laboratory and industry, academic, and government partners are working to provide reliable robot teammates that will have the ability to classify the environment for quality of surface and potential hazards, then maneuver behavior to adjust to conditions.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

According to researchers, components of the research consisted of scene segmentation, object detection, and route planning in simulated environments to provide the necessary intelligence to maneuver, navigate, and accomplish dynamic tasks in unstructured environments. One of the research projects under the RCTA that has set out to enable robots to effectively maneuver in unstructured environments involved legged locomotion.

RCTA researchers have developed a quadruped vehicle that is all-electric, human scale, quiet, autonomous, moves at roughly soldier walking speed, and can carry a meaningful payload in addition to its sensors, computers, and battery. The vehicle is called Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation (LLAMA).

According to the researchers, wheeled and tracked vehicles are limited in the variety of terrain they can negotiate, and cannot keep up with walking soldiers in all terrain. Legged locomotion systems with context switch capabilities will overcome this challenge and learn then adapt along with environmental and mission changes.