- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Marines will not be using robotic mules called “AlphaDogs” any time soon because the machines were deemed too noisy to be useful in a combat situation.

Boston Dynamics, the robotics company owned by Google’s parent Alphabet, has been working with DARPA, the Pentagon’s research division, to build the robots designed to carry supplies for troops.

The AlphaDog robots, also called the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), were designed to carry up to 400 pounds and provide much-needed relief for soldiers, Military.com reported.

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The average soldier is expected to carry no more than 72 pounds when marching and 48 pounds when fighting, but paratroopers in Iraq in 2003 carried up to 101 pounds.

Boston Dynamics received $42 million to develop the robots.

But military exercises with the robotic mules clearly showed that LS3, with its petrol-powered engine, is too loud for real-life use in the Marine Corps.

Kyle Olson, a spokesman for the Marines, told Military.com on Dec. 22 the noise the LS3’s gas-powered engine gave off was tactically rather unhelpful.

“As Marines were using it, there was the challenge of seeing the potential possibility because of the limitations of the robot itself,” Mr. Olson said. “They took it as it was: a loud robot that’s going to give away their position.”

Under the same contract with DARPA, Boston Dynamics built a quieter, electrically powered and hydraulically articulated robot known as Spot.

Spot robots caused a stir on social media last week when they appeared in a holiday video from Boston Dynamics dressed as reindeer.

But the Spot robot can only carry about 40 pounds, which is not enough to help out the Marines.

“I see Spot right now as more of a ground reconnaissance asset,” captain James Pineiro, the Ground Combat Element branch head for the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com. “The problem is, Spot in its current configuration doesn’t have the autonomy to do that. It has the ability to walk in its environment, but it’s completely controller-driven.”

It is also unclear how both robots would be repaired if they broke down in the field.

Both the LS3 and Spot projects have been put on hold. Developers do not have any future experiments or upgrades planned unless the Marines offer them a new contract.

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