Sunday, May 06, 2007

Powered Exoskeleton

DARPA Defense Sciences Office - The U.S. military continues to equip its forces with significant armor, weaponry, and supplies. DARPA’s Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation Program will assist our soldiers in carrying this load by developing a fully integrated exoskeleton system that will increase the speed, strength, and endurance of load-burdened soldiers in combat environments. Now in its final stages of development, this system will provide soldiers with a wide range of new capabilities including increased infantry body armor capability, load carriage in denied areas and through rough terrain, casualty evacuation, and electric and mechanical power.

The program’s final phase focuses on development of a fast-moving, heavily armored, high-power lower and upper body system that utilizes a number of technological innovations, including—

*A combustion-based driver to support advanced hydraulic actuators that produce robotic limb movements with very high strength, speed, bandwidth, and efficiency.

*A control system that allows the operator to move naturally, unencumbered and without additional fatigue, while the exoskeleton carries the payload.

Application-specific packages can be attached to the exoskeleton. These packages could include mission-specific supplies, protective outer coverings capable of operation in extreme threat and weather conditions, various electronic systems, weapons, or supplies and instrumentation for medical support and surveillance. The exoskeleton could also be used to move material in places inaccessible to vehicles, on board ships, and where forklifts are not available.

Targetting Snipers

With modern urban warfare providing countless unseen havens for deadly snipers the U.S. Defense Department’s advanced research division is hoping to dramatically cut down deaths of coalition troops in the Middle East with the introduction of it’s C-Sniper system.

Developed by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects), the C-Sniper system is being lauded as an effective way to locate and neutralise snipers, and not only by triangulating their positioning after they’ve opened fire but actually before they are able to launch their stealthy attacks. Perhaps naturally, especially considering the nature of the technology and its potential effects on the battlefield, DARPA provides scant little information concerning the operation of its C-Sniper system, although it’s not the first or only sniper location application open for use.

For example, according to a related Wired report, the Air Force Research Laboratory has a counter sniper system known as BOSS (Battlefield Optical Surveillance System), which is allegedly built on laser location technology. And, San Diego-based Torrey Pines Logic Inc. is also developing its own sniper detection system, which is called the Mirage 1200. The Mirage is a portable binocular-style piece of field equipment that utilises (safe to the human eye) pulsed lasers in order to locate the long-range scopes on sniper rifles.

DARPA claims its C-Sniper system will be capable of the “detection and neutralization of enemy snipers” in either daylight or night time conditions while delivering the system’s operator with data with which to track (and destroy) said target thanks to C-Sniper’s related weaponry. And, although development details are few and far between, DARPA believes that its C-Sniper system will arrive as a markedly more evolved option when placed alongside the likes of BOSS and Mirage 1200 thanks to the proposed integration with its existing Boomerang gunshot-locator device.

The Boomerang system relies on a cluster of seven directional microphones that register a passing bullet’s shockwave at marginally different times, allowing the system to track and locate the position of the firing weapon. While the initial feedback provided by the system delivers a general directional location to troops in the vehicle that houses Boomerang, it also provides GPS positioning as well as target range and elevation.

“We’re now accurate way beyond 500 meters,” comments Dave Schmitt, Boomerang’s program manager at BBN Technologies in Cambridge, Massachusetts.