Final tests are set to soon be carried out on new military load-carrying technology developed by US firm Lockheed Martin.
The company’s Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) provides troops with a robotic exoskeleton platform that’s capable of carrying loads weighing up to 91 kilograms (200 pounds) while at the same time decreasing the strain that heavy loads place on soldiers engaged in battlefield scenarios.
HULC features titanium legs which redistribute the weight being carried, whilst it also incorporates micro-computer technology which makes real-time movement calculations to ensure that it and the soldier operate as one. In so doing, it places no restrictions on movement through horizontal and vertical planes: those wearing the exoskeleton can crawl, run at slow speed, squat or jump as required.
HULC: Human Universal Load Carrier
The Human Universal Load Carrier system runs on battery power and its structure is modular, a boost to high-speed and easy parts exchanges under battlefield pressure.
“We recognize the importance of perfecting the exoskeleton technology to redefine what is possible for our Soldiers”, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control’s Sensors, Data Links and Advanced Programs director, Rich Russell, stated in a company press release issued online on 14 July 2010.
“HULC will meet Warfighters’ future mobility and sustainment needs. Working with the Natick Research Center to evaluate the system will further enhance our ability to meet our customer’s needs and requirements.”
HULC Exoskeleton Trials
Through a recent $1.1m contract, US Army personnel are set to now put HULC through its paces. The current design represents an upgrade over the original configuration, with a “ruggedized design” and the Army HULC exoskeleton trials – set to last for two months – will get underway at the end of the year.
Two key focus areas of these trials will be adaptability – how rapidly soldiers can get used to wearing the skeleton – and the effect of it on their energy conservation levels.
“The tests will help us assess the current state of the technology”, David Audet of the Natick Soldier Research Center stated, adding: “Exoskeletons have the potential to reduce stress on the body from heavy loads.”
Armed Forces International will present further coverage of Lockheed Martin’s Human Universal Load Carrier in future News Items.
HULC image courtesy of Lockheed Martin