Army reaches out to industry for new ideas on exoskeletons to help warfighters lift heavy loads

NATICK, Mass. – U.S. Army scientists are reaching out to industry for new ways to relieve infantry warfighters of heavy loads with load-bearing robotic suits called exoskeletons. Officials of the Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., issued a sources sought notice last week (01760-5011) called Request For Concept Papers On Exoskeleton Technologies For The Warfighter.

Army reaches out to industry for new ideas on exoskeletons to help warfighters lift heavy loads
Army reaches out to industry for new ideas on exoskeletons to help warfighters lift heavy loads
NATICK, Mass. – U.S. Army scientists are reaching out to industry for new ways to relieve infantry warfighters of heavy loads with load-bearing robotic suits called exoskeletons.

Officials of the Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., issued a sources sought notice last week (01760-5011) called Request For Concept Papers On Exoskeleton Technologies For The Warfighter.

The Army Contracting Command is issuing this industry call for papers on behalf of the Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM) Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) in Natick, Mass.

The U.S. Warfighter, whether he or she is on foot or in a vehicle, typically is physically overburdened, researchers point out. This increases fatigue, reduces movement and maneuver, and increases the likelihood of acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries.

Exoskeletons are considered a promising approach to enable warfighters to maintain peak performance for longer than they can today. These exoskeletons are designed to improve strength, endurance, and ergonomics while maintaining user safety and reducing physical injury risk during various load tasks.

Related: Lockheed Martin partners with B-TEMIA to bring robotic exoskeleton technology to the infantry

The Army is asking for industry white papers that outline innovative exoskeleton approaches to improve warfighter performance while they are moving over uneven terrain, or performing ergonomically challenging load tasks for long periods in awkward postures, doing heavy lifting, or other repetitive lifting.

Effective exoskeleton systems demonstrate the principles of user safety, comfort, ease of use, integration with user clothing and individual mission equipment, energy efficiency to enable long operating durations and low system costs.

Army experts expect they will need a variety of exoskeleton systems for infantry warfighters, logistics and mission support, for ergonomically challenging tasks, medium and heavy lift and carry, and specialized tasks like explosive ordnance disposal and chemical and biological protection.

Exoskeletons for infantry warfighters would facilitate running and walking for long periods, and help warfighters to shoot, move, communicate, protect, and sustain.

Related: Army eyes exoskeleton technology to reduce wear and tear on soldiers from wearing helmets

Logistics and mission support exoskeletons would focus on strength-enhancing or injury-reducing low- or medium-mobility capabilities during lifting, loading, unloading, and transporting tasks.

Light-task and medium-lift-and-carry exoskeletons would help warfighters with ergonomically challenging tasks, and make lifting tasks safer and more effective.

Heavy-lift-and carry exoskeletons would enable one person to perform load handling tasks that one or more people normally handle. This could serve as a force multiplier, creating a smaller force with greater capabilities.

Specifically, Army researchers are looking for exoskeletons that could enable an infantry warfighter to march with loads of 99 to 136 pounds safely and without excessive exhaustion; and walk in a crouch, crawl or jump obstacles while carrying loads of 75 to 90 pounds.

Related: Protonex to enhance HULC exoskeleton power supply

Exoskeletons should enable infantry warfighters break down doors and fight at close quarters, load and unload cargo from vehicles, maintain land vehicles and aircraft, dig trenches and other prepared fighting positions, carry wounded comrades, and move hundred-pound obstructions to rescue others.

The Army would like to demonstrate some of these exoskeleton concepts as early as this summer.

Companies interested should email white papers no later than 12 March 2018 to the Arm's Greg Kanagaki at gregory.b.kanagaki.civ@mail.mil.

For technical questions or concerns contact the Army's Kimberly Pumyea by email at kimberly.b.pumyea.civ@mail.mil, or by phone at 508-233-5167.

More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/notices/9ba5618073c7bfa2d4abd42e1f5c4ee4.

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