The exosuit or “Exoskeleton suit” is no longer just found in the realm of science fiction and the big screen, but is getting closer to becoming reality on the battlefield.
The Incredible HULC
Lockheed Martin has begun military testing on the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) robotic exosuit, originally introduced by Berkeley Bionics in 2008. It is powered by a rechargeable lithium polymer battery that can last more than 72 hours courtesy of Protonex. More info in the video above.
Lockheed bought the design license from Berkley in 2009, and in 2010 signed a 1.1 million dollar contract with the US Army Natick Soldier Center to test and evaluate the suit on soldiers’ performance.
The TALOS exosuit
Another exosuit called the TALOS (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit) is projected to be ready between 2016 to 2018. More info in the video below.
So how does it work? The idea is to address one of the most common complaints among soldiers… back strain from carrying their equipment around in heavy packs. The HULC can carry 200lbs plus its own 53lb weight (not including the batteries) without weighing down the soldier. This means that soldiers can carry heavy equipment to the battlefield and still have energy for their mission. The maximum running speed for a solider in the suit is 16 kmph in a short burst and 11 kmph for longer durations.
It can also carry integrated systems like cooling, heating, armour and sensors, and the suit is operated by a single-board micro-electronics unit inside a sealed enclosure. The heat produced by the micro board is absorbed by actuators.
Limited battery life is currently a large concern. Batteries can only be made so powerful before they turn into potential explosives. This is why the TALOS, which has bulletproof armour, sensors that can detect and apply treatment for injuries, and liquid armour, is still under development. This suit has been going through continuous testing. Ultimately, the goal is for it to be worn underneath the armour.
With two generations of exosuits undergoing field testing, it should be a short time before we see them in action on the battlefield.