US Army develops new lightweight exoskeleton suit for soldiers


The US Army is developing a new suit for soldiers to prevent and reduce musculoskeletal injuries, as well as improve their mental performance.

The suit with pulleys and gears is being developed as part of the Warrior Web programme, a scheme funded by US Department of Defense to develop a lightweight, conformal under-suit that is transparent to the user.

US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) researcher Dr Angela Boynton said: "We've been primarily focusing on the physical benefits of these types of suits, but we're also interested in the cognitive benefits.

"We're hoping that by reducing the physical burden, that they also have the ability to put more energy into other types of tasks that involve cognitive or perceptual workload."

"We've been primarily focusing on the physical benefits of these types of suits, but we're also interested in the cognitive benefits."

A team of ARL scientists and engineers have been testing variations of the suit for more than three years at the Soldier Performance and Equipment Advanced Research (SPEAR) facility at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Harvard bio-design lab engineering and applied sciences associate professor Dr Conor Walsh and his team have been working and testing the suit prototypes on soldiers since 2014.

Walsh said the latest version of the ‘exosuit’ tested at ARL is the result of his team's system integration efforts over the past year.

Claimed to be much more user-friendly when compared to early prototypes, the system includes improved functional apparel attachments to the body, control systems that adapt to each individual, and compact actuation systems.


Image: Dr Courtney Webster makes adjustments to the Warrior Web physical augmentation suit from Harvard's Wyss Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo: courtesy of US Army photo by David McNally.