The technology was developed by Lockheed Martin Corp with a license from Canada-based B-TEMIA, Reuters reported. B-Temia was the first company to develop exoskeletons to help people with mobility difficulties to get back on their feet after such medical ailments like multiple sclerosis and severe osteoarthritis.
The exoskeletons are battery-operated and made to be worn over a pair of pants. The technology uses a suite of sensors, artificial intelligence and other technology to aid natural movements. The US military considers using such technology to deploy soldiers into war zones equipped with the heavy armour. The body armour, night-vision goggles and advanced radios could altogether weight up to 64 kilograms. While the recommended limit is 23.
“That means when people do show up to the fight, they’re fatigued. The fundamental challenge we’re facing with infantry troops is they’re carrying too much weight,” said Paul Scharre at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), who helped lead a series of studies on exoskeletons and other advanced gear.
Lockheed Martin on Thursday announced that it won a $6.9 million award from the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center to research and develop the exoskeleton, called ONYX, under a two-year, sole-source agreement.
Keith Maxwell, the exoskeleton technologies manager at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said people in his company’s trials who wore the exoskeletons showed far more endurance, noting that the soldiers will get to fight “not worn out”.
Maxwell, who demonstrated a prototype, said each exoskeleton was expected to cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. In Canada, B-TEMIA’s medically focused system is sold for $30,000, company spokeswoman Pamela Borges said.
The United States is not the only country that develops such technology. Russia and China among other nations are developing exoskeletons in parallel. Both counties presented their technological advances this year.
The CNAS analysis of the exoskeleton was part of the Washington-based think tank’s larger research at next-generation technologies that can aid soldiers, which included better helmets to shield them from blast injuries and the introduction of robotic drones to help resupply the army in war zones.