Have you ever envisioned being Robocop? Have you ever envisioned being Robocop with the funding of Lockheed Martin? Enter the hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton known as the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC), the result of Lockheed Martin’s partnership with Berkeley Bionics that was unveiled earlier today.
Like something straight out of a James Cameron movie, the HULC exoskeleton has recently begun eight weeks of rigorous field tests in Afghanistan. The system, comprised of primarily titanium components, offers strength without compromising weight. Managed by an on-board processor, the hydraulics at the leg joints are put into action as sensors all over the chassis monitor your every move, mimicking the motion. Its flexible design allows for a complete range of natural movements, including kneeling crawling, squatting, and a run up to 10 mph.
The HULC is ready to take the weight of the world off of the backs of US troops by minimizing the effort a soldier exerts and reducing the wearer’s metabolic cost. In the process, soldiers will be able to carry loads up to 200lbs on the backpack frame plus the 53lbs of the device itself, alleviating the carried weight. According to project lead Doug Medcalf, the impact is so profound that “the soldier has the feeling of maybe an extra five to 10 pounds.” Attachments are also being engineered to front-load additional equipment. The end result is a well-rested soldier capable of enduring long missions at higher altitudes while decreasing oxygen consumption and preventing fatigue.
The system runs on four lithium polymer batteries for up to 48 hours. Partnering with Protonex Technology Corporation, Lockheed Martin intends on developing a fuel cell-based power solution for extended missions lasting 72+ hours, as well as rechargeable capabilities when all else fails.
"Integrating state-of-the-art power technology on the HULC is a whole system approach to meeting the needs of dismounted Warfighters and Special Operations forces," said Rich Russell, director of Sensors, Data Links and Advanced Programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “With proper power management systems, the HULC can be used to recharge critical equipment while carrying heavy combat loads on an extended mission."
A third generation model, the HULC takes its form and function from two previous Berkeley Bionics exo-skeleton prototypes: the ExoHiker, designed for carrying heavy loads, and ExoClimber, designed for rapid ascensions and climbing steep slopes. The current model has birthed three separate ranges of purpose: military functionality, industrial applications, and medically for patients suffering from mobility disorders. The latter two are still currently in development.
And on July 21st, 2010, Skynet became self-aware.