The WildCat robot is the fastest free running quadruped robot in the World, running at 32 km/h. The previous record was 21 km/h, set in 1989 at MIT.
WildCat is powered by a methanol burning engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system (and makes a whale of a noise.) The robot uses a variety of gaits, including trotting, bounding, and galloping to maintain its balance while running and maneuvering over relatively flat terrain. The on-board computer uses dynamic control algorithms and a variety of sensors (IMU, ground contract, proprioception, visual odometry) to control and stabilize the running motion. It uses a set of laser range finders to accurately measure the robot’s height and attitude above the ground.
The control system that stabilizes WildCat was first developed on Cheetah, a laboratory prototype that ran 48 km/h, faster than Usain Bolt. (Cheetah ran indoors on a treadmill with no wind load, was constrained to move in a plane and was powered by a very large remote power supply.)
WildCat development was funded by DARPA's Maximum Mobility and Manipulation program.