Marines with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion test out the PowerWalk, just one exhibit of energy saving gear at Camp Pendleton’s ExFOB14. The PowerWalk harnesses energy as the user walks, charging batteries and other devices. The PowerWalk may look like a brace, but reviews showed it actually made walking less of a chore while not restricting movement.
Modern armed forces are becoming more dependent on technology. In particular, the dismounted soldier is increasingly reliant upon portable electronic devices – night vision goggles, small arms laser pointers, laser range finders, GPS, communication devices, personal flashlights and other devices that are essential for soldier safety and effectiveness. Portable power is beginning to be treated with the same “combat supply” priority as water, food, and ammunition. As a result, on a 72-hour mission, soldiers can carry as much as 13 kg of batteries to power this equipment – significantly limiting their range and speed of travel. A number of militaries have acknowledged that this weight is a limiting factor to mission duration and success.
Bionic Power’s first product – the PowerWalk™ M-Series – was developed in collaboration with the Canadian Forces and the US Army. It resembles an athletic knee brace and weighs about 850 grams (1.7 lbs) per leg. With a device on each leg, a user walking at a comfortable speed generates an average of 12 watts of electricity. At this rate, a little over one hour of walking generates enough electricity to charge four mobile phones
The PowerWalk™ M-Series is the culmination of years of biomedical engineering research. It represents a significant breakthrough in the portable-power field as this patented technology powers portable devices and improves their performance, permits the use of smaller and lighter rechargeable batteries, and creates opportunities for the deployment of new portable technologies. In the military arena, the PowerWalk™ M-Series reduces the weight in batteries that soldiers are required to carry for their missions and gives soldiers the ability to remain in the field indefinitely with rechargeable batteries.
While weight savings can be substantial for longer missions, the cost savings are substantial for missions of any duration. Depending on distance, the cost of getting a $0.30 battery to a soldier “in theatre” is between $3 and $30 due mainly to logistical costs. For a soldier’s typical duty day, the PowerWalk™ M-Series would save $135 in batteries. Assuming 200 mission days per year, the cost savings add up to $27,000 per soldier per year.
An additional benefit for the dismounted soldier is the maintenance of the supply chain. A constant supply of primary batteries is required to keep the dismounted soldiers operational, and a disruption of this supply chain puts the mission at risk. The PowerWalk™ M-Series eliminates the need for a constant supply of batteries and ensures the ongoing safety of soldiers in the field
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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