Biomechanical Suit [Mechanical engineering]

Biomechanical Suit

Military exoskeletons uncovered: Ironman suits a concrete possibility

HULCIn developments which have seen reality mimicking science-fiction, new technologies have enabled military scientists and research teams to develop robotic armoured suits for warfighters or military exoskeletons, like those seen in Hollywood films such as Ironman, Avatar and The Matrix.

Military exoskeleton suits, designed to fit around a dismounted soldier to give them almost-superhuman capabilities, can be fitted onto the body of a soldier in order to improve physical characteristics, such as strength or endurance, creating huge advantages for inboth combat and carrying out logistical tasks.

Although previous programmes, such as the Handiman project co-developed by General Electric and the US Military, suffered from serious limitations due to weight and mobility issues, companies including Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are now taking advantage of new materials and technologies to make science-fiction become science-fact.

Military exoskeleton armour capabilities

Hulc video 1"With both the HULC and XOS exoskeleton suits passing the proof of concept stage, testing and development has commenced."

Enhancing or boosting the capabilities of soldiers using a powered exoskeleton poses many advantages, particularly in the logistical field.

Current programmes, such as Raytheon's XOS exoskeleton and Lockheed Martin's human universal load carrier (HULC) have demonstrated greatly improved strength, allowing soldier to carry loads of up to 200lbs for extended periods of time.

This could allow soldiers to undertake tasks such as loading ammunition onto an array of military vehicles without the need of heavy-lift machinery, as well as moving obstacles on the battlefield with ease.

Soldiers would also be capable of running greater distances with reduced fatigue, courtesy of transferring weight to the ground through powered titanium legs.

Human universal load carrier

Originally developed by Ekso Bionics, Lockheed Martin entered into an exclusive licensing agreement in January 2009 in order to co-develop the human universal load carrier (HULC).

HULC is an un-tethered, hydraulic-powered, anthropomorphic exoskeleton designed specifically to fit around the body of a dismounted soldier. The system's flexible design poses little to no restriction of movement, a crucial element for warfighters using the system in theatre.

There is no joystick or control mechanism, instead sensors detect movement and, using an onboard micro-computer, make the suit to move in time with the body. The system's titanium structure and hydraulic power augments the soldier's ability, strength and performance, whereas its modularity allows components to be switched and replaced with ease.

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