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Noisy BigDog to take a load off

Boston Dynamics has developed a DARPA-funded robotic mule for troops.

Boston Dynamics

We're confident that those of you who've had to hump ammo cans or a mortar plate over hill and dusty dale will draw great consolation in the knowledge that those following in your footsteps may have it easier should this contraption find its way into the grunt inventory.

While still in the prototype stage, the BigDog robotic mule is supposed to be able to clamber up a 35-degree slope and carry a 120-pound load through rough terrain at more than 5 miles per hour. Billed as "the most advanced quadruped robot on earth" it's the size of a "large dog or a small mule," according to its developer, Boston Dynamics.

The company, which has been working on the DARPA-funded robotic mule for the last few years, is confident that future models will move even faster and carry even more. This quadruped's legs are articulated, same as an animal's, and its movements are controlled by an onboard computer and a passel of sensors, i.e. laser gyroscope, stereovision and GPS.

Unlike the Army mules of yore, the BigDog does not need to be fed and watered. But on the down side, its one cylinder gas engine sounds like a very big, very loud chainsaw. Add a solar panel, and they might have a winner.