Baku, August 21 (AZERTAC). At the time Stan Lee and the Marvel team created Iron Man in the 1960s, the idea of metal exoskeletons for human use was purely science fiction.
But now, Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) and the U.S. Navy are making exoskeleton technology a reality, entering into a contract to evaluate and test such gear for industrial use. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
LMT shares rose 1.6% on the stock market today.
Lockheed describes the suit, named Fortis, 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 defense and aerospace giant says that the exoskeleton, which moves naturally with the body, allows operators to hold objects up to 36 pounds effortlessly, using a mechanical arm built by Equipois using the brand name zeroG.
The gear boasts the ability to reduce muscle fatigue by 300% and increase productivity by two to 27 times.
But unlike Tony Stark's shiny red and gold armor, the Fortis doesn't enable flight or cover the entire body.
Instead, it straps onto the wearer like a backpack. The arm tool attaches to a belted waist, where metal beams brace the outer legs with supports at the shins and feet.
The U.S. Navy will test the gear for hand-tool use at its shipyards.
"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, in a press release Monday.
"Those tools take a toll on operators due to the tools' weight and the tight areas where they are sometimes used."
Though this contract is to evaluate the Fortis for the Navy's industrial use, Lockheed says that it is developing exoskeleton systems for military applications as well.
The Maryland-based firm has been investing in exoskeleton R&D for more than five years.
Last September, U.S. Special Operations Command posted a broad agency announcement looking for technology contributors for its Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) for use by special ops forces.
TALOS-related technologies include advanced armor, mobility and agility, situational awareness and combat ready displays.
Lockheed, Raytheon (NYSE:RTN), General Dynamics (NYSE:GD) and even Legacy Effects, the creator of Iron Man's suit for the Marvel movies, are all working on military exoskeletons for Special Operations Command.
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