Easing soldiers' carrying loads could help reduce musculoskeletal system injuries.
Biomechanical testing of Lockheed Martin's ruggedized HULC exoskeleton is now underway at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Natick, Mass. The testing is expected to help shape future requirements for the HULC, based on feedback from soldiers.
For seven weeks, U.S. Army war fighters will be evaluated to assess the effects of load carriage with and without the use of the HULC exoskeleton. Biomechanical testing will measure changes in energy expended by users, assessing how quickly individuals acclimate to the system, and whether there is a reduction in metabolic cost. Testing will also determine if there is an improvement in metabolic efficiency as measured by oxygen consumption per unit total mass, when wearing the ruggedized HULC, as compared to not wearing the device under identical load, speed, grade, and duration conditions.
Lockheed Martin's HULC is an un-tethered, battery powered, hydraulic-actuated anthropomorphic exoskeleton that provides users the ability to carry loads up to 200 pounds for up to 20 kilometers on a single battery charge, and over all terrains. HULC's design allows for deep squats, crawls, and upper-body lifting with minimal human exertion. An advanced onboard micro-computer ensures the exoskeleton moves in concert with the operator. HULC is an innovative solution that improves endurance and reduces the risk of injury to the soldier.
The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that the most prevalent service-connected disabilities stem from musculoskeletal system injuries.
Following successful biomechanical evaluations, the ruggedized HULC system will transition to a series of field excursions designed to measure its utility in simulated operational environments.