Feeds

Super-soldier exoskeletons ready for troop tests in 2010

Reg interviews suited-up inventor. Very politely

Intelligent flash storage arrays

DSEi Some days, the world of military whizz-tech can get to be a bit humdrum. Awesome as missiles, robots etc. are, they can sometimes pall. But today is no such day: today we on the Reg military whizz-tech desk have been interviewing the inventor of an actual, working powered exoskeleton - in his suit, powered up, with hundreds of pounds of armour and other military bric-a-brac strapped onto him.

The HULC military exoskeleton on show at DSEi 2009

The exoskeleton inventor was careful not to tread on any toes.

Russdon Angold is an engineer from California. To the accompaniment of an occasional loudish whine as his suit's electrically-driven hydraulics cut in and out, he briefed the Reg on the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC™) exoskeleton this afternoon.

"We're just at the right stage for this now," said Angold. "Batteries, hydraulics, controls, they've all developed to the point where a machine like this becomes achievable."

Angold and a few colleagues at first developed the HULC on their own through their company Berkeley Bionics. However, the firm was acquired by US defence goliath Lockheed, who are now assisting with "ruggedisation" and further readying of the machine.

The HULC runs on Li-ion batteries, driving lightweight hydraulic legs with titanium structure. A wearer can hang a 200lb backpack from the back frame and heavy chest armour and kit from shoulder extensions.

"I'm just standing here," said Angold, carrying just such a load. "All the weight's carried by the structure." He demonstrated walking around without trouble, and was able to go down to one knee and recover to standing up easily despite having almost 300lb of kit strapped onto him. Readers with infantry experience will appreciate this last feature. Angold himself has no such background, but his brother is a serving US Navy SEAL.

The machine doesn't offer any help to the wearer's arms, but an over-shoulder gantry can be fitted and heavy items such as artillery shells hung from it on a sling. Battery life depends on usage - you can drain the batteries fast by running - but marching slowly at 4kph will allow it to last for 5 hours.

According to Lockheed reps the HULC isn't ready for prime time yet, being still "in ruggedisation". However the company would envisage giving it to actual soldiers so as to get their input from next summer. Field deployment in the event of a customer coming forward would happen at some point after that.

Overcoming inevitable military scepticism may be something of an issue. A senior British officer, present to observe the HULC in action, joked that it would be a major threat to the Army as it could allow more female soldiers in combat roles. He preferred to remain unnamed.

Meanwhile back in the States, rival arms behemoth Raytheon has bought up the competing Sarcos XOS exoskeleton. We asked Angold why his suit's better.

"Because it doesn't have a tether," he said bluntly, alluding to the XOS's well-known inability to stray too far from a power socket. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.