According to Business Week the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding Boston Dynamics’ development of a prototype robot called the Cheetah. The robot managed to set a new land speed record at 18 mph for legged robots on March 5.
Marc Raiberts, the head of Boston Dynamics, believes the cat robot should be able to clock speeds up to 40mph after “key design and technical features are further refined.” Raibert also believes this kind of technology can be beneficial in a battlefield to operate as a “scout.” The company also believes that it can be useful during civilian disasters although no such time frame has been released for when this sort of technology could be used.
Right now the Cheetah runs while “tethered to a hydraulic pump for power and relied on a boom-like device to help maintain power.” Raibert referred to this set up as “training wheels.” He also said that later this year the company would start testing a free-running robot that will have a gas-powered engine and software capable of running 3D movements.
The main problem for getting this type of robot working on the ground is the battery. There is very little room for a battery on this machine, so the battery must not only be small but has to be strong enough to power it.
Raibert told Time, “Our approach is to get the basic concept and scientific solution working in the lab in a simplified setting then do the system integration needed to get the machine outdoors.”