Robot Cheetah Sets New Land Speed Record

A robot designed with the speed and agility of a wild animal could soon help the U.S. military dispose of explosives more quickly and safely.

The "Cheetah" robot gallops at speeds of up to 18 mph and currently holds the land speed record for legged robots. (A legged robot has legs, like an animal, rather than wheels, like a conventional robot.) The previous record of 13.1 mph was set in 1989, according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which funds the project. For now, the Cheetah runs on a laboratory treadmill and is powered by an off-board hydraulic pump, but DARPA says it plans to test a free-running prototype later this year.

"The robot's movements are patterned after those of fast-running animals in nature. The robot increases its stride and running speed by flexing and un-flexing its back on each step, much as an actual cheetah does," DARPA explains.

Boston Dynamics, an engineering company that specializes in dynamic robots and software, designed the Cheetah with funding from DARPA's Maximum Mobility and Manipulation program. The company also built a rough-terrain robot called BigDog, which it calls the "alpha male" of its robot pack.

Check out this video of the Cheetah in action — and make sure you catch the fascinating slow-motion display about 35 seconds in.


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