US Navy will test Fortis exoskeletons

The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) has ordered a pair of Fortis exoskeletons from Lockheed Martin for testing and evaluation. The unpowered exoskeletons won’t give sailors superhuman strength, but they will allow them to handle heavy equipment for longer periods with less fatigue…

“Ship maintenance often requires use of heavy tools, such as grinders, riveters or sandblasters,” says Adam Miller, director of new initiatives at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “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…”

Unlike powered exoskeletons, Fortis works like a frame that increases the wearer’s strength and endurance by channeling the weight of heavy objects away from the wearer’s body and down through the exoskeleton to the ground. This allows operators to carry objects weighing up to 36 lb (16.3 kg) as if they were weightless. Lockheed says that Fortis with its Equipois ZeroG arm can reduce fatigue by 300 percent and improve productivity by 200 to 2,700 percent.

But if it sounds like something rigid, Lockheed says that Fortis is more like the steadicam rig used by filmmakers. It can be used in standing and kneeling positions, is adjustable to different heights and body types, and the joints and ergonomic design do not hinder movement or flexibility.

I’m still trying to catch up to the steadicam. I watch the camera operators trundling up and down the sidelines at Premier League football matches in awe.

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