U.S. Navy to Test Iron Man-Like Exoskeletons for Use in Shipyards

Mike Schuler
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August 19, 2014

The Lockheed Martin-designed FORTIS exoskeleton allows operators to effortlessly hold objects up to 36 pounds. Photo courtesy Lockheed Martin

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin has received a contract for the U.S. Navy to evaluate and test two of its iron man-like exoskeletons for potential use in naval shipyards.

The contract was awarded by the National Center for Manufacturing Scientists on behalf of the U.S. Navy and will involve the first procurement of the Lockheed Martin-designed ‘FORTIS’ exoskeletons for industrial use.

Lockheed explains the technology as an unpowered, lightweight exoskeleton that increases an operator’s strength and endurance by transferring the weight of heavy loads from the user’s body directly to the ground. The FORTIS exoskeleton will be used to supplement the strength and endurance of maintenance personnel working within a physically demanding shipyard environment through an ergonomic design that moves naturally and allows operators to maintain flexibility without hindering movement. This means operators can work longer and more efficiently with reduced muscle fatigue, Lockheed says.

The objective of the test is to mature and transition exoskeleton technology to the Department of Defense industrial base and perform testing and evaluation for industrial hand-tool applications at Navy shipyards.

Check this of the FORTIS exoskeleton in use in the video below:

“Ship maintenance often requires use of heavy tools, such as grinders, riveters or sandblasters,” said 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.”

Lockheed Martin says it has been investing in exoskeleton research and development for more than five years now, most recently through the NCMS Commercial Technologies for Maintenance Activities (CTMA) program. These investments have led to advancements in powered and unpowered exoskeleton systems for applications ranging from military to industrial.

“We are pleased that once again a technology advanced through our highly successful CTMA program will be put into commercialization,” said Rick Jarman, president and chief executive officer of NCMS. “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. We applaud Lockheed Martin for seeing the value in our CTMA program.”

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