The military will receive the first three TALOS exoskeleton prototypes in June, 2014. The prototypeas will be unpowered. Best-case scenario, the admiral wants the suit to be used in combat situations by August 2018.
Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, SOCOM commander, said it was the death of a special operator in Afghanistan who was killed in such a scenario that kicked off a multi-agency effort to design and develop the tactical assault light operator suit, or TALOS.
The goal is to “redefine” the state of the art in tactical survivability and capability, he said. “We are already seeing astounding results,” he added.
McRaven said powering such a suit, which may have an exoskeleton, will be the number one challenge. There are a lot of companies large and small tackling the ballistic protection problem, but not as many involved in power generation.
McRaven said he is seeking the authority to have a cash prize for the suit. He wants it to be as high as $10 million, although he has not secured that amount yet. He referenced the Ansari X-Prize, which called for the launch and return of a spacecraft into low Earth orbit and a quick turnaround for a second launch. The teams spent hundreds of millions to develop their space vehicles, even though the prize was only $10 million, he noted.
Prototypes are likely to build upon the Warrior web, soft exoskeleton project.
There is or soon will be commercial available batteries in the 800-2000 Watt hour per kilogram range. Current commercial lithium ion batteries are about 250 Watt hours per kilogram. Polyplus Lithium water batteries might be in production this year with 1300-1500 watt hour per kilogram energy density.
Lithium-air battery can be recharged just 40 to 50 times, vs. thousands of times for traditional lithium-ion batteries. The lower level of recharging would be less of an issue for special force exoskeletons.
Direct Assaulter enhanced mobility/protective technologies may include, but are not limited to:
a. Advanced Armor: Materials to support next generation full-body ballistic protection. Full body ballistic protection shall be to the NIJ-IV level and include the head. Blast pressure wave mitigation technologies will be considered.
b. Mobility/Agility: Enhancement platforms such as powered exoskeletons that improves/augments warfighters endurance and agility.
c. Situational Awareness (SA): Body worn and remote sensor integration, fusion, and display to enhance a warfighter’s understanding of the tactical environment.
d. Light/noise discipline
e. Command, Control, Communications & Computers (C4): Such as conformable & wearable antennae, wearable computers, and advanced wave forms/software programmable radios allowing for a reduction in soldier load
f. Individual soldier combat ready displays: Including non-visual means of information display, and potentially utilization of cognitive thoughts and the surrounding environment to display personalized information
g. Power generation and management
h. Thermal management of suit occupant
i. Medical: Embedded monitoring, oxygen systems, wound stasis, electromechanical compensation
Proposed solutions should take into consideration “lightening the load” of the operator, mentally and/or physically while providing maximum protection, agility, and tactical dominance.
Respondents interested in conducting demonstrations using technologies like: lasers, explosives, weapons using live fire, moving equipment, vehicles, and other technologies that present an occupational hazard shall prepare and submit a safety risk assessment. The risk assessment shall address the likelihood and severity of any inherent risks as well as risk mitigation measures required to bring the resultant risk to a low level. The risk assessment shall be submitted as an attachment to the experiment nomination.
Robots already exist to enable safer breaching of doors
The Robotic Ballistic Shield (RBS1) or “Swat Bot” concept was created in coordination with the Massachusetts State Police. It utilizes the RS1 base platform, a collapsible ballistics shield, and a hardened AR400 steel nose shield to protect those in the line of fire. Standard procedures for approaching a hostile environment means utilizing a shield barely larger than the human torso for protection. The “SWAT Bot” offers the operator and team adequate cover from hailing gunfire and explosive scenarios.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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