Editorial Feature

DARPA’s Disaster Response Team Member

Boston Dynamics have created a 6’2 humanoid robot, ATLAS - one of the World’s most advanced robots. At 330 pounds and anatomy put together with sensors and actuators, this automated giant is operated using a human controller.

Anthropomorphic robots are becoming widely studied and constructed by some of the most renowned research and test facilities such as Boston Dynamics who are also responsible for the creation of PETMAN an anthropomorphic robot designed for testing the chemical protection of clothing. Boston Dynamics have taken the development of robotic capabilities to the next generation with the creation of ATLAS.

In the past, software and sophisticated algorithms have been created to manipulate robotic technology to test its capabilities in controlled settings that have resemblance to real-world situations.

Research is now rapidly becoming involved in the advancement of automated robotic technology that can be thrown into the deep end of a real-world scenario. Of course, the expectation is to refine algorithms, simulation and experimentation to understand the intricacies of how a robot may perform under attack for example.


ATLAS, one of the most advanced humanoid robots ever developed to negotiate outdoor, rough terrains. Video courtesy of DARPA

The robot has been developed for the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), but will need to perform in the DRAPA robotics challenge where robots are tested to observe how they perform in disaster response scenarios.

Boston Dynamics have designed the robot to walk in a bipedal fashion allowing the upper limbs to this anthropomorphic robot to manoeuvre freely, allowing this machine to carry and lift objects. The machine is designed to perform in challenging environments and with complex algorithms, it can climb using its hands and feet in a similar fashion to how humans would climb a wall.  

As mentioned, ATLAS is currently powered remotely from an electric power supply. Movements performed by ATLAS are made possible with the following equipment:

  • Real-time control computer system
  • 28 hydraulic actuator components
  • Limb structure similar to humans (i.e., two arms, two legs, hands, a torso and a head)
  • A thermal management system

This technology will continue to become more sophisticated with the objective of creating an automated machine that can work alongside humans in disaster response zones.

Sources and Further Reading

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