Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware of the comic book character Iron Man. The superhero has no powers of his own but instead uses his brain to build a fancy suit of armor that grants him insane capabilities. While we’re nowhere near that level of technology, for years now there have been attempts to create a suit reminiscent of Iron Man.
And scientists have been quite successful as of late, as a new exoskeleton device that enhances a human’s abilities has finally become viable enough for our military to test.
As reported at Scout, the Army is testing an exoskeleton technology which uses AI to analyze and replicate individual walk patterns, provide additional torque, power, and mobility for combat infantry, and enable heavier load-carrying, industry officials said.
Lockheed Martin is one of several companies vying to perfect the technology and sell it to the military and other private industries that put significant stress on the body.
Lockheed’s FORTIS knee-stress-release-device exoskeleton will be used at Fort A.P. Hill as part of a focus on fielding new performance-enhancing soldier technologies.
The sci-fi-like suit, powered by a lithium-ion battery, utilizes independent actuators, motors, and lightweight conformal structures to help make it easy for people to carry 180 pounds up five flights of stairs, expending only a fraction of the energy it would otherwise require.
“We’ve had this on some of the Army’s elite forces, and they were able to run with high agility carrying full loads,” Keith Maxwell, the FORTIS senior program manager said. While the suit reduces the burden of physical stress on the body, making it perfect for industries where walking around and carrying large objects, Lockheed believes that the suit will be especially useful for the military.
That’s because FORTIS enhances soldier mobility, speed, and power, making it perfect for close-quarter combat situations and aiding infantry soldiers when shouldering large loads over great distances.
“We were showing a decrease in the metabolic cost of transport, the measure of how much energy is required to climb uphill,” said Maxwell.
On top of enhancing the wearers’ physical abilities, the suit also protects against, as it prevents joints from hyper-extending. Add in the fact that it just makes activities easier and less tiring, and you have an impressive combination that’s certain to reduce injury.
These tests will be crucial in determining the usefulness of these exoskeletons, which have been in development for many years. We’re finally seeing the millions in research funding payoff. Hopefully, the results will be good, so we can see the FORTIS become common throughout our military.