US Navy is testing Fortis exoskeletons

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A US defense contractor has provided the US Navy with two 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.

The Fortis exoskeleton allows the wearer to operate heavy tools without fatigue. The Fortis exoskeleton adjusts to different body types. It should be noted that unlike other types of exoskeletons, the Fortis exoskeleton is unpowered.

According to GizMag, one popular myth is that modern naval vessels are push-button workplaces where sailors spend all day staring at screens and clicking mice. In fact, life aboard even the most advanced warship has more in common with Admiral Nelson than Captain Picard. Crews carry out demanding physical tasks at close quarters to keep the ship in fighting trim. They may not be hauling guns or setting sails, but everyday tasks are physical and strenuous.

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Though the navy is indeed a more technical-oriented arm, missions aboard any vessel often involve missions that test one’s strength of body. These may include loading munitions, rigging equipment, or just handling a portable sander. All this makes for a surprising amount of brute strength and stamina that is still required in modern navies.

“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.”

The Fortis exoskeleton allows the wearer to operate heavy tools without fatigue. US armed forces have been looking into the possibilities of exoskeletons for years as government-backed development projects, such as Lockheed’s HULC and Raytheon’s XOS 2. But where the Army has concentrated on powered skeletons to help soldiers carry heavier loads over rough terrain, the Navy is interested in a day-to-day exoskeleton that sailors can use routinely.