The US Navy has awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin to evaluate and test Iron Man-type exoskeleton technology, which will be used to help the navy’s ship maintenance crew execute tasks that necessitate heavy lifting.
As part of the contract, awarded through the US Navy’s National Centre for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS), Lockheed has developed two FORTIS exoskeletons suits, which will be tested for industrial hand-tool applications at navy shipyards.
The new technology will be trialled at Virginia’s Norfolk Naval Shipyard and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control new initiatives director Adam Miller said: "Ship maintenance often requires use of heavy tools, such as grinders, riveters or sandblasters.
"Those tools take a toll on operators due to the tools’ weight and the tight areas where they are sometimes used.
"By wearing the FORTIS exoskeleton, operators can hold the weight of those heavy tools for extended periods of time with reduced fatigue."
The unpowered, lightweight exoskeleton transfers the weight of heavy loads from the user’s body directly to the ground, further augmenting the strength and endurance of maintenance personnel in the physically demanding shipyard environment.
The system’s ergonomic design moves along with the human body and allows users to maintain flexibility and boost their working ability and effectiveness, while reducing fatigue from overuse.
NCMS president and chief executive officer Rick Jarman said: "We are pleased that once again a technology advanced through our highly successful CTMA programme will be put into commercialisation.
"The Lockheed Martin FORTIS exoskeleton contract is just another example of how collaboration around research and development speeds the time to market for these important innovations."