That Time When US Army Developed Six-Legged Walking Robots in the 1980s

That Time When US Army Developed Six-Legged Walking Robots in the 1980s

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The 1980s wasn't just the era of synthpop, bright clothing, and huge hairdos. It was also a time when the U.S. Army was thinking ahead of its time to develop new technologies to carry its troops to the next step, quite literally.

And so it worked on the development of a massive six-legged hydraulic robot truck that was operated by one person. It was called the Adaptive Suspension Vehicle (ASV) and it looked something out of the Star Wars movies.

The Army worked alongside Ohio State University (OSU) researchers to create the vehicle, along with a number of outside contractors.

The Drive published an extensive report on the vehicle.


Moving machine

The ASV was impressive in size and automation for its time, unfortunately, it was also very slow and couldn't carry a big payload. That said, it's still a rather impressive piece of engineering and robotics.

The project kicked off in 1981 and was led by Robert McGhee and Kenneth Waldron from OSU, and was developed over nine years, per the Drive's report.

At the time, it took 17 OSU computers to run the behemoth robot and ensure its operator wasn't exhausted from conducting six separate robot legs by the end of the day. The computers managed a number of tasks, such as cathode ray tube (CRT) displays in the cockpit, choosing the best footing, and analyzing the data brought together by the six feet.

All of the collected data was then processed by an operating software, which was written in Pascal and created 150,000 lines of source code.

The driver used a keypad and a joystick to select the vehicle's direction. As per the original article covering the ASV's capabilities, the end goal was to make it drive autonomously, however, that day never arrived.

The ASV was able to move thanks to a 900cc motorcycle engine placed in the center of the machine, offering 91 horsepower at its peak. There were a whopping 18 variable displacement pumps that were driven by a complex operating system.

The vehicle could move at 8 mph (13 km/h), and even though it was moving slowly, it wasn't a smooth ride. As per the original OSU article, the regular cruising speed was closer to 4 mph (6.4 km/h).

What was also cool was that it boasted six drive modes: utility, precision footing, close maneuvering, follow the leader, terrain following, and cruise.

It weighed 5,952 pounds (2,700 kg), and could only carry 485 pounds (220 kg) worth of payloads. It was 17 feet (5 meters) long, 7.9 feet (2.4 meters) wide, and went up 9.8 feet (2.9 meters). A pretty big truck unable to carry much payload or many people.

It could, however, walk over obstacles up to 6.9 feet (2.1 meters) tall, and stretch over trenches as wide as 23 feet (7 meters). Regardless of some of its impressive features, especially its time, the project was stopped in 1990, and the ASV has been lost out of sight.

Instead, the U.S. Army and DARPA have been working on some other interesting projects.

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