US Special Operations have built prototypes of the TALOS exoskeleton. It is designed to shield commandos from gunfire when they are in heavy urban combat. This special situation exoskeleton system will be the first system used in combat.
In five years there will be lower body exosuits to help soldiers carry their heavy loads. US Soldiers carry 50-80 pounds of equipment.
It will take ten years before the first for major deployments of multi-mission exoskeletons.
The TALOS prototype models are battery-powered hydraulic rigid exoskeletons with a bulletproof outer shell.
They have more hard armor coverage. They are like the modern version of medieval armor. Modern ceramic armor and kevlar offer five times the protection of steel by weight.
They monitor the wearer with advanced medical technology. Sensors provide warnings of dehydration or low blood sugar.
The exoskeletons release wound-clotting foam if there is a wound.
Exoskeletons are themselves load-bearing. They help soldiers carry more and increase their mobility.
It is the only technology with the long-term potential to increase protection and improve dismounted soldier mobility.
Having exoskeletons that can operate for more than 8 to 16 hours is the main obstacle to wider adoption. There are worried potential power failures.
It has taken improvements in power management to reduce power consumption. Exoskeleton endurance has improved dramatically in the past few years. The full-body exoskeleton from SARCOS can operate for 8 hours of continuous walking on a level surface while carrying a 160-pound load. They allow faster movement with reduced fatigue. The load-carrying capacity of the SARCOS TALOS suit is 40 pounds greater than the average load carried by dismounted troops today.
The rechargeable batteries weigh 30 pounds. A soldier could carry a spare set of batteries. This would double the suit’s endurance. Some members in the squad could have exoskeletons with internal combustion engines. They would be louder and could recharge the suit’s batteries or carrying additional batteries.
Onyx modular exoskeletons could be operational in 2021
In 2018, the Army began testing the Lockheed Martin’s ONYX exoskeleton. ONYX augments the knee joints when carrying heavy loads over uneven terrain. It uses less power than a full-body exoskeleton. The current design is able to achieve 8 to 16 hours of operation over realistic terrain. The device could be fielded as early as 2021.
Ultimately soft exosuits can help soldiers carry 30 percent of their body mass with a 14 percent reduction in metabolic power.
They are still working to reach worthwhile improvements in carrying capacity while reducing fatigue.
Current suits use 50 to 100 watts of power. Exosuit prototypes weigh 5.5 kilograms and have smaller batteries for up to 4 hours of endurance.
The benefits vary between users. Some may see gains of 15 to 20 percent while others see no gains. Researchers need to determine how to customize the suits for everyone to see gains.
Liquid Piston has developed a novel rotary engine design with reduced noise. Their intended mature commercial design would be a 3-pound engine that generates 3.7 kW of power.
A hybrid gas-electric power system may be best solution. The long endurance engine would be used in most situations and the user would switch to battery-only mode when they need to be quiet.
DARPA has awarded LiquidPiston an additional $2.5 million to continue development of its 30kW X4 rotary diesel engine prototype, bringing DARPA’s total funding of the engine technology to $6 million.
When development of the fully packaged engine is complete, the 30kW X4 engine is expected to weigh just 30lbs and fit into a 10” box, while achieving 45% brake thermal efficiency – approximately an order of magnitude smaller and lighter than traditional piston diesel engines, and also 30% more efficient. The efficient, lightweight, and powerful rotary Diesel/JP-8 X4 engine offers a disruptive power solution for direct as well as hybrid electric propulsion and power generation.
* it will be about 4-30 times less volume and weight than existing engines
* it will be about twice as efficient
It can be used for breakthroughs from drones, robotics and exoskeletons.
Lightweight and Compact
High power density – up to 2 HP/Lb (3.3 kW/kg)
30% smaller and lighter for spark-ignition (SI) gasoline engines
Up to 75% smaller and lighter for compression-ignition (CI) diesel engines
No poppet valves
Exhaust turbulence minimized by over-expansion; no muffler required
Only two primary moving parts, optimally balanced, resulting in near-zero vibration
20% decrease in fuel consumption possible for SI gasoline engines
50% decrease in fuel consumption possible for CI diesel engines
Diesel, gasoline, natural gas, JP-8
From 1 HP to over 1000 HP
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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