Exoskeleton helps soldiers carry heavy gear

May 17, 2017, Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin developed the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) for the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC). In a series of tests, NSRDEC evaluated the potential for exoskeleton technology to alleviate strain and fatigue for soldiers who carry heavy loads over long distances. We are building on this experience to innovate further in the realm of exoskeleton technology. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Their demanding missions often require soldiers to carry heavy equipment packs long distances over rough terrain, or up and down stairs and underground infrastructure in urban environments. Exhaustion and injury are frequently a consequence of these challenging operational scenarios. A new exoskeleton from Lockheed Martin offers a solution.

Using licensed Dermoskeleton bionic augmentation technology, the FORTIS Knee Stress Release Device (K-SRD) is a computer-controlled that counteracts overstress on the lower back and legs and increases mobility and load-carrying capability. It boosts leg capacity for physically demanding tasks that require repetitive or continuous kneeling or squatting, or lifting, dragging, carrying or climbing with heavy loads.

"FORTIS K-SRD features military-specification batteries that are approved for infantry use, improved control box ergonomics and faster actuators that generate more torque," said Keith Maxwell, FORTIS program manager at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "These system upgrades resulted from soldier feedback on the initial design."

Sensors on the exoskeleton report the soldier's speed, direction and angle of movement to an on-board computer that drives electro-mechanical actuators at the knees. The exoskeleton delivers the right torque at the right time to assist knee flex and extension. FORTIS K-SRD ultimately reduces the energy needed to cross terrain, squat or kneel. These benefits are most noticeable when ascending or descending stairs or navigating inclined surfaces.

Exoskeleton helps soldiers carry heavy gear
FORTIS K-SRD helps soldiers climb and walk carrying heavy mission equipment loads by supporting the legs and boosting knee capacity. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Versions of the exoskeleton are also available for industrial workers and first responders who have to perform strenuous tasks in difficult environments.

"For any mission that combines heavy man-portable gear and climbing, FORTIS K-SRD can enhance strength and endurance," Maxwell said.

Explore further: Lockheed Martin tests the advanced HULC robotic exoskeleton

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