September 29, 2014

Ripley Vs. Iron Man: Making Exoskeletons Work For the Navy – Soon

WASHINGTON: Advocates of military exoskeletons, from the former chief of Special Operations Command on down, like to invoke Iron Man, Marvel’s iconic armored superhero. But there are other models for more modest and more feasible, yet still militarily valuable uses of exosuit technology. So don’t just think of Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. Think of Sigourney Weaver’s Warrant Officer Ripley, clunking along in a kind of wearable robotic forklift:


Glamorous it isn’t, but Ripley’s loading heavy supplies aboard a Marine Corps landing craft — the kind of unsexy but essential mission that real-life exoskeletons may actually be able to do in the next few years. In an invitation-only workshop I attended this morning at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) with military officers, technical experts, and thinktank wonks, what struck me was how low some of the low-hanging fruit may be, just waiting for exoskeletons to reach out and pick it with their iron claws.

The big debate this morning, in fact, was how to balance seizing the immediate opportunities for naval forces with exploring high-risk, high-payoff areas such as damage control. Several participants pleaded to get current prototypes out into the fleet fast, hauling ammunition and other heavy objects, so the Navy can build experience with and confidence in the technology, rather than keep tinkering in the lab in pursuit of more ambitious missions where it’s easy to over-promise and under-deliver.

Read the full article at Breaking Defense.