Taiwan unveils military-use powered exoskeleton suit

10/26/2021 04:08 PM
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CNA photo Oct. 26, 2021
CNA photo Oct. 26, 2021

Taipei, Oct. 26 (CNA) Taiwan's military on Tuesday unveiled a locally-made military-use powered exoskeleton suit, a mechanized wearable system designed to be used in wartime and on post-disaster rescue and relief missions.

The 10-kilogram lower body exoskeleton, which is designed to boost the strength and endurance of its users, can move at a speed of 6 kilometers per hour, said Jen Kuo-kuang (任國光), the project manager and a member of the military's top research institution, the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCIST).

The exoskeleton delivers the right torque at the right time to assist knee flexion and extension to reduce the energy needed to cross terrain, squat, or kneel for its wearers, and to increase mobility and reduce fatigue, Jen said.

The exoskeleton's lithium battery has a duration of six hours after being charged, he added.

CNA photo Oct. 26, 2021
CNA photo Oct. 26, 2021

The NCIST has now run tests on a total of 105 soldiers to make sure the suit fits the regular height and weight of Taiwanese, with minor adjustments based on each wearer's body size that can be made case by case, according to Jen.

He did not provide an estimate on when the suit can be put into use by field units.

According to a budget proposal issued by the Ministry of National Defense, the military-use powered exoskeleton suit is part of a four-year NT$158 million (US$5.67 million) project running from 2020-2023.

Jen said the NCIST has completed the first phase of the project in designing the exoskeleton suit.

It will continue to modify the suit so that ultimately it can enable a user to carry a maximum load of 100 kilograms when the four-year-project is completed, he added.

A military source told CNA that the military is hoping the high-tech suits can be used during wartime and in post-disaster rescue and relief missions.

CNA photo Oct. 26, 2021
CNA photo Oct. 26, 2021

So far, only a handful of world powers, including the United States, Japan, and Canada, are currently working on similar technology for military use, and their technology is not available at present for confidentiality reasons, which is why Taiwan needs to develop its own, according to the source.

The source said the project has learned from the U.S. military's experience in developing its own powered exoskeleton suit.

The military is working closely with the NCIST, a number of private medical technology, automation and robotic companies, and several local universities on the project, the source added.

(By Matt Yu and Joseph Yeh)

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