Saturday, July 17, 2010

Army tests HULC robotic exoskeleton

Lockheed Martin has received a $1.1 million contract to test its next-generation HULC exoskeleton that can give troops superhuman strength and endurance, as well as reduce injuries from heavy loads.
   The Human Universal Load Carrier consists of a hydraulically powered titanium exoskeleton that lets soldiers carry loads of up to 200 pounds for extended periods of time over any kind of terrain. A microcomputer embedded in the frame makes the skeleton move with the soldier, providing intuitive control, according to Lockheed.
  HULC seems to come in two parts--upper body and lower body. Lockheed says soldiers wearing the exoskeleton can perform "deep squats, crawls, and upper-body lifting with minimal human exertion" and that   HULC's front-load capacity is 150 pounds.
   HULC resembles Japan's Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL), which lets users repeatedly lift loads of up to 200 pounds, though the latter is designed to help seniors and disabled people with mobility issues.
   HULC will be tested at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center in Massachusetts. Researchers will measure solder performance and energy levels when using HULC as well as how long it takes to adapt to the strength-booster. The contract includes possible "field trials to test the system's utility in operational environments," Lockheed said in a release.

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