17 July 2009

BigDog -vs- Mules

My buddy Rhet sent me a link to a post on the Small Wars Journal about some transportation methods being developed for the US Military. Specifically, a robot named BigDog that can haul 380lbs over some very rough terrain. Check out the video below - it's pretty sweet looking.

HOWEVER (and it's a big however), the every thrifty and innovative Marines have figured out a way to haul heavy loads over rough terrain, using a very mature "technology" that doesn't require batteries, replacement parts or even gasoline. Yup, they use mules.

Which makes me wonder - if mules can effectively accomplish the mission, is the BigDog really necessary? Yes, BigDog is cool. I love it. I've watched this video several times and it gets me all excited. But the real question is, is it better?

Maybe it is. But frankly, that's likely to be a matter of opinion ("better" being a rather subjective word, don't you think?). And clearly, mules are the FISTy option.



Phil said...

As an EE who suffered through a control systems course in college, i'm extremely impressed. BigDog's reactions to the ice and pile of cinder blocks are incredible. Really kind of creepy watching it move; it's incredibly lifelike. I wonder if it's housebroken. My vote is they're (mules and BigDog) both FISTy in their own way.

The Dan Ward said...

I apparently had my speakers turned off the first time I watched it. Man, that thing is noisy!

Still, it's a beautiful piece of machinery. I totally want one. I wonder how much it costs...

Dick Field said...

Looks and sounds more like the "Revenge of the Wingless Fly". I hope it has a muffler. For you Air Force types: That sucker would announce the presence to the enemy big-time - from miles away - and get a lot of people killed! I recently talked to someone who delivered horses and mules to certain forces in Bosnia. Much less noisy. Then, there is always the use of the good, old, multi-faceted human pack mule - the most common means of humping gear in Vietnam. See http://i250.photobucket.com/albums/gg272/Boonierat1972/Vietnam%20Combat%20Operations/Image0188.jpg

Craig Brown said...

It reminds me of something from Phillip K Dick's imagination.

Mules are great, but once the muffler is in palce this thing would be able to sneak a nice big bomb into someone's kitchen.

The RSPCA will be happier if it's a robot than a mule.

Ben Voetberg said...

For routine non-combat transportation of goods/equipment I think the mule is an outstanding choice. If it is an active engagement the bigdog may be a better option since it and its cargo could be armored. I personally have no moral issues with mules being killed during operations but some organizations, such as PETA, might.

Also inital costs maybe cheaper but mules have constant up keep costs. You only need to fuel the bigdog when you use it and its probably a lot easier to repair. I can't slap on a new donkey leg if one gets blown off.

Brad Englund said...

Might want to ask a rancher. I think now days they use horses for certain tasks, and four wheelers for others.

Horses/mules need food and water even when not in use, but are very efficient when in use. And, a heck of a lot quieter! You couldn't sneak up on anyone but a deaf guy with the BigDog.