Pentagon looks to exoskeletons to build ‘super-soldiers’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Army is investing millions of pounds in experimental exoskeleton technology to make soldiers stronger and additional resilient, in what experts say is aspect of a broader thrust into highly developed gear to equip a new era of “super-soldiers.”

The engineering is getting created by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) with a license from Canada-primarily based B-TEMIA, which first produced the exoskeletons to enable men and women with mobility challenges stemming from medical conditions like multiple sclerosis and severe osteoarthritis.

Worn over a pair of trousers, the battery-operated exoskeleton utilizes a suite of sensors, artificial intelligence and other technological know-how to help natural movements.

For the U.S. navy, the attraction of these know-how is clear: Soldiers now deploy into war zones bogged down by weighty but crucial equipment like system armor, night time-vision goggles and sophisticated radios. Altogether, that can weigh everywhere from 90 to 140 kilos (40-64 kg), when the proposed restrict is just 50 kilos (23 kg).

“That usually means when persons do demonstrate up to the fight, they are fatigued,” stated Paul Scharre at the Middle for a New American Security (CNAS), who assisted direct a series of research on exoskeletons and other sophisticated gear.

Keith Maxwell, Senior Product Supervisor of Exoskeleton Technologies at Lockheed Martin, demonstrates an Exoskeleton for the duration of a Exoskeleton demonstration and discussion, in Washington, U.S., November 29, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago

“The elementary problem we’re going through with infantry troops is they’re carrying much too considerably bodyweight.”

Lockheed Martin mentioned on Thursday it won a $6.9 million award from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Analysis, Enhancement and Engineering Middle to study and build the exoskeleton, known as ONYX, under a two-calendar year, sole-supply agreement.

Keith Maxwell, the exoskeleton technologies manager at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Handle, mentioned men and women in his company’s trials who wore the exoskeletons showed much extra endurance.

“You get to the struggle clean. You are not worn out,” Maxwell stated.

Maxwell, who shown a prototype, explained each individual exoskelelton was anticipated to price tag in the tens of 1000’s of pounds.

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B-TEMIA’s medically focused system, referred to as Keeogo, is marketed in Canada for about C$39,000 ($30,000), organization spokeswoman Pamela Borges explained.

The United States is not the only nation on the lookout at exoskeleton know-how.

Samuel Bendett at the Middle for Naval Analyses, a federally funded U.S. study and enhancement centre, explained Russia and China have been also investing in exoskeleton technologies, “in parallel” to the U.S. advances.

Russia, in certain, was operating on quite a few versions of exoskeletons, together with 1 that it tested not too long ago in Syria, Bendett stated. A video clip of a Russian edition can be observed right here: listed here

The CNAS examination of the exoskeleton was element of a larger sized appear by the Washington-centered feel tank at following-technology technologies that can aid troopers, from better helmets to protect them from blast accidents to the introduction of robotic “teammates” to support resupply them in war zones.

The CNAS studies can be witnessed here: www.cnas.org/super-troopers

(This story has been refiled to eliminate acronym in paragraph 13)

($1 = 1.3279 Canadian pounds)

Reporting by Phil Stewart Editing by Peter Cooney

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