US Navy signs up for exoskeletons to make workers over 20 times more productive

Military personnel will soon be able to take a load off for good after a range of exoskeletons were given the go ahead to be used by the US Navy for the very first time.

Lockheed Martin’s FORTIS, which has been in development for two years, is ready to be deployed and capable of supporting weight up to 36lbs and transfer that from hands and arms to the ground.

“There’s a lot of wear and tear on you,” said Adam Miller, director of new initiatives for Lockheed Martin, according to Wired. “Skilled workers can maybe do that for three to four minutes then they need to put the tool down and they need to rest.”

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Miller explained that the skeleton is made from anodised aluminium and carbon fibre weighing in at 30lbs and follows the contours of the human body with joints where you’d expect to find them usually as well as side-to-side flex at the waist.

It is designed to be worn in “complex environments” that mean the wearer is able to climb stairs or a ladder, squat and move around as normal when wearing the exoskeleton.

Any tools that are needed are attached to the front of the exoskeleton with weight channelled through the joints at the hip and then down to the floor in order to take away any stress on the body.

Tests already conducted by Miller’s team have shown that it results in a boost in productivity from anything between twice as much to 27 times as much and this was from continuous operation using a 16lb grinder above the head.

“The longest operators could work continuously without a break was three minutes sustained without augmentation,” says Miller. “Using the FORTIS, operators could work 30 minutes or longer without requiring rest breaks.”

The US Navy has bought two of the exoskeletons and plans to test the devices over the coming six months in order to work out how useful they will be before a decision is made on whether to deploy them more widely.

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin