DRDO Joins The Race to Build Exoskeleton. Indian Soldiers to become Super Warriors!

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by Kivi

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08.21.2022



The Himalayan range stretches over the west to the east with an average width along the entire longitudinal extension ranging from 100 km to 400 km. The vast area covered by the mountain range contains some fantastic altitude gradients.

From evacuating citizens from catastrophic situations to thwarting nefarious strategies of the enemy at the border, there is not even a single easy task for the Indian armed forces.

To achieve this, the R&D wing of Indian armed forces under the leadership of DRDO is Developing Exoskeleton For The Indian Soldiers Posted In High Alt. With the Sino-India border issue likely to be guarded more intensely by both the sides, any support to make the lives of the soldiers safer and conducive shall go a long way in their motivation and operational efficiency.

But first before moving further with discussion lets try to understand what is Exoskeleton.

A powered Exoskeleton, also known as power armour, exo-frame or exosuit is a mobile machine consisting primarily of an outer framework ( similar to an insect’s Exoskeleton) worn by a person, and powered by a system of motors, hydraulics or pneumatics that delivers at least part of the energy for limb movement. The main function of a powered Exoskeleton is to assist the wearer by boosting their strength and endurance. In addition, similar Exoskeletons can be used to help pre-fighters and other rescue workers survive dangerous environment.

Exoskeletons or Exo-suits are dual-use technology gadgets worn as a harness by a soldier to increase the strength. A soldier with an exoskeleton is capable of faster movements and possesses the extra load-bearing capability.

An Exo-suit can enhance the soldier’s additional load carrying capacity by 100 kg for a minimum of 8 hours of operational time and 3-5 hours of battery backup.

Recently China has also fielded its military-grade exoskeleton suits which are powered and used for carrying ammunition at LAC. And, reports indicate that an earlier version of the non-powered exoskeleton suit was also used by the Chinese border defense troops in the later part of 2020 for supporting operations like supply delivery, patrol etc.

This has helped the PLA border defense troops in Southwest China’s Region to carry out tasks in high altitude inhuman environments. Work is in progress to supply more types of mission specific exoskeleton suits. The operational advantages achieved have been claimed by use of these few kilogram exoskeleton suits, which are like 20 kilograms of assisted strength, relieve more than fifty percent of the load burden, thereby, reducing the risks of injury to the troops.

DEBEL, which is the nodal lab is currently doing the R&D on Exoskeleton and utilizing in-house expertise in disciplines of Biomedical/Biomechanics, actuators and control systems.

For the development of Exoskeleton, each of the soldier’s muscle micro-motion is measured for its correlated moment on the joints, so that a similar smooth response from the Exo-suit can be obtained.

Various concepts and configurations are being designed and developed currently. DRDO has been progressing on the different design approaches to build an augmentative exoskeleton for the Indian Army. There have mainly been two schools of thought/approaches for the design of augmentative exoskeletons, which are passive/unpowered augmentative exoskeleton and powered augmentative exoskeleton. The passive exoskeletons use passive elements such as springs, dampeners etc., to transfer the payload to the ground, however active exoskeletons not only transfer the payload to the ground but also impart energy through the actuators resulting in reduced energy consumption by the soldier.

Several private sector companies too are doing research and development for the Exo-suit design for the conditions specific to Indian soldier.

DRDO has also outlined the details regarding the funding of the project and how private players can try developing this next generation of super soldiers.
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