HULC exoskeleton user testing awarded to Lockheed Martin

ORLANDO, Fla., 17 July 2010. Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] won a $1.1 million contract from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center for test and evaluation of its next-generation HULC advanced robotic exoskeleton, designed to augment soldiers' strength and endurance, as well as reduce load carriage injuries.

Jul 17th, 2010

Posted by John McHale

ORLANDO, Fla., 17 July 2010. Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] won a $1.1 million contract from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center for test and evaluation of its next-generation HULC advanced robotic exoskeleton, designed to augment soldiers' strength and endurance, as well as reduce load carriage injuries.

Under this contract, the U.S. Army will test Lockheed Martin's advanced ruggedized HULC design. The upgraded HULC exoskeleton includes optimized control software, extended battery life, and human factors improvements for quicker and easier sizing to each user. Lockheed Martin is also exploring exoskeleton designs to support industrial and medical applications.

Dismounted soldiers often carry heavy combat loads that increase stress on the body, leading to injuries and exhaustion. HULC is designed to transfer the weight from heavy loads to the ground through the robotic legs of the lower-body exoskeleton, taking the weight off of the operator, Lockheed Martin officials say. An advanced onboard micro-computer ensures the exoskeleton moves in concert with the operator. HULC is an un-tethered, battery powered, hydraulic-actuated anthropomorphic exoskeleton capable of performing deep squats, crawls, and upper-body lifting with minimal human exertion.

"The tests performed on Lockheed Martin’s HULC system will help us assess the current state of the technology," says David Audet of the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center, which awarded the contract. "Exoskeletons have the potential to reduce stress on the body from heavy loads."

Researchers at Natick Soldier Center will evaluate how the HULC affects soldiers' performance. Additionally, biomechanical testing will measure the energy expended by a soldier when using the HULC. The laboratory testing will also assess how quickly users learn to use the HULC system when carrying various loads and moving at various speeds. The contract includes options for field trials to test the system’s utility in operational environments.

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