Sep 292010
 

Exoskeleton

Technology has always defined how wars are fought, from swords to bows and arrows through the invention of gunpowder and the dawn of the aircraft and, now, to the presence of laser-guided unmanned aerial drones and bomb-diffusing robots. The U.S. military is now hoping the next decade will see a new class of warrior, a faster, stronger and more durable exoskeleton-empowered infantryman.

Such an “iron man” was unveiled Monday at a demonstration of Raytheon Company’s new Exoskeleton (XOS 2) at the company’s research facility in Salt Lake City, Utah. XOS 2 was designed to be stronger and allow soldier wearing the exoskeleton to execute movements more fluidly than its XOS 1 predecessor, first unveiled in May 2008 (riding the publicity at the time that led up to the release of the first Iron Man movie).

The 95-kilogram XOS 2 is about 40 percent stronger than its 88-kilogram predecessor—the XOS-1 could lift about 16 kilograms with each arm, XOS-2 can lift about 23 kilograms.

Whereas XOS 2 was designed to use half the amount of power as its predecessor, Raytheon is hoping to ultimately develop a version that uses 20 percent of the power as the XOS 1 to perform the same tasks.

Reduced power consumption is key to making the exoskeleton practical to the military. The system is powered by an internal combustion engine, and its electrical systems are run by a wire that tethers the XOS 2 to a power source. Raytheon decided not to use batteries because the company’s engineers didn’t trust the safety of Lithium-ion batteries in close proximity to the person wearing the exoskeleton.

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