DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Futuristic Bodysuit Could Strengthen Soldiers

12/1/2011
By Eric Beidel
Carrying loads of 100 pounds or more has taken its toll on the knees, ankles and spines of troops. About half of the soldiers who are unable to deploy have suffered preventable musculoskeletal injuries, Army officials say.

To combat the problem, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency hopes to develop a lightweight undergarment full of tiny sensors that would automatically know when to stiffen and relax to help prevent injury. The suit, which DARPA calls Warrior Web, also would be able to counter fatigue by augmenting the work being done by muscles.

It should fit like a diver’s wetsuit, officials say.

“As the equipment load on our warriors goes up, so does the number of injuries at key body joints and soft tissues,” says Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, DARPA’s Warrior Web program manager. “The vision is to create a suit, carefully mapped to human physiology, which fits comfortably underneath the uniform and outer protective gear.”

Warrior Web is expected to weigh less than 20 pounds and consume no more than 100 watts of electric power from a battery source. It should be able to reduce the negative effects of a 100-pound load as well as compensate for its own weight.

“The suit needs to have minimum bulk, be comfortable, address body heat and moisture, be adaptable to varying body types and maintain the wearer’s natural range of motions,” Hitt says.

DARPA has been soliciting responses from industry for the program, which will be broken into two parts. The first aims to gather the technology needed to make the suit. The second will result in a prototype that officials can begin testing.

Topics: Land Forces

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