SCIENCE & TECH

Military 'Exoskeletons' To Give Soldiers Superhuman Strength

Matt Charnock
Author
Matt Charnock
Military 'Exoskeletons' To Give Soldiers Superhuman Strength

Military soldiers might soon be knighted with Superman- or Wonder Woman-like strength, courtesy of robotic “exoskeletons.”

The US army is testing a futuristic exoskeleton that gives soldiers super human abilities, mirroring strength we only once thought possible within the pages of a comic book. The frame fits around the soldier's’ legs and are attached to a belt worn around the waist.

During initial tests, engineers reported that Fortis — the name of the “hero suits” — reduced the amount of energy needed to perform a task by nine percent, using AI to learn the gait of each soldier to help get the most out of each angulation.

'We've had this on some of the Army's elite forces, and they were able to run with high agility carrying full loads,” said Keith Maxwell, senior programme manager of exoskeleton technology at Lockheed Martin. “'It knows what you are trying to do when you are trying to do it.”

'It locks and gives you a forward torque-twist that causes the lower leg to move toward the back, then it reverses direction to bring your leg forward.,” he also added, highlighting the various AI intelligences engineered into the suits.

The insectile frame itself uses a series of independent actuators, motors and lightweight structures, powered by a three pound rechargeable lithium ion battery. When all's said and done, this allows soldiers to carry 180 pounds up five flights of stairs, using minimal energy.

And the results go far beyond just solo-flights of Marvel-like strength. Even more common tasks performed when wearing these suits seem to leave those operating them much less fatigued than they would otherwise be if they didn’t have the exoskeletal enhancement.

In the study, four soldiers wore the exoskeleton and carried a 40 pound backpack while walking at various speed on a treadmill inclined to 15 degrees.

Results showed that all four participants were less fatigued when wearing the exoskeleton.

“We were showing a decrease in the metabolic cost of transport, the measure of how much energy is required to climb uphill,” claims Maxwell.

An earlier test by the US Navy found The Fortis exoskeleton increased productivity anywhere from two to 27 times, depending on the task — so those newly developed “exoskeletons” are likely to help usher in a new era of super productive, less tired soldiers.

(Feature image, courtesy of Science Mag)