For good or for worse, exoskeletons have the potential to become a staple of every modern military in the world. It is public knowledge that the U.S., China, South Korea, Australia, Russia and the EU (France and Britain) have military exoskeletons in development. But if there is such interest, why have countries been so slow to adopt the military wearable exoskeleton?
The defense industry wants lighter exoskeletons, with longer battery life, that are cheaper and clearly give an advantage to the troops. However, the generals also appear to want wearables that will not get in the way. But thanks to the reporting by the National Defense Magazine we now know that even this is a gross oversimplification of military wearable exoskeleton research.
This month, the National Defense Magazine published what is easily one of the best exoskeleton articles of the year: Pentagon’s Robotic Exosuit Program Making Strides.
- Explanation of the DARPA Warrior Web Project
- Design goals and limitations
- Breath of the Warrior Web program (already 15 different devices tested)
- Differentiation from TALOS
- Opinions from the experts
- Timeline expectations
- Considerations for integration with already existing gear
The above article is quite thorough and illuminates the Warrior Web program like never before. Special thanks to the author, Jon Harper, are in order.
Moving forward, it appears that military wearable exoskeleton research will split up into four directions:
- Warrior Web – thin, small exoskeleton systems that reduces the effort soldiers have to put into moving on foot. If a military patrol could travel X miles without the suit, then with it, they have to be able to travel either further or the same distance but with more gear.
- TALOS – an integrated system that distributes and supports the weight of an armored helmet and embedded electronics gear, backpack, and remaining body armor (example: Revision Military Kinetic Suit).
- Injury prevention – devices that are focused entirely on improving the capabilities of the human body to handle loads, stresses, and strain. A great example would be the Marine Mojo by 20KTS+ which is a dampener system for the knees.
- Energy salvaging – exoskeletons that collect energy while a soldier is moving. The gathered energy is directed to power electronics equipment or recharge batteries (example: Powerwalk Kinetic Energy Harvester).
All of the four types listed above will still have the same constraints: ability to last in the field, durability, quietness, integrable with standard gear, etc…
Pentagon’s Robotic Exosuit Program Making Strides, National Defense Magazine, September 2016, link
‘Iron Man’ exoskeletons to give Diggers superhuman strength, The Australian, September 2016, link
DX Korea 2016: South Korean developers showcase exoskeleton systems, IHS Jane’s 360, September 2016, link