Lockheed Martin has received a $6.9 million award from the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), to enhance the ONYX exoskeleton for future soldier demonstrations. ONYX is a powered, lower-body exoskeleton with artificial intelligence (AI) technology that augments human strength and endurance.

Under the two-year, sole-source agreement, Lockheed Martin will optimize ONYX components. The improvements will be evaluated by the University of Florida in advance of NSRDEC soldier demonstrations scheduled for 2019.

"Innovative human/machine technologies like ONYX can improve human performance, decrease injury and reduce fatigue to help soldiers accomplish physically demanding tasks," commented Exoskeleton Technologies Program Manager at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Keith Maxwell. "This award brings us one step closer to equipping future forces with advanced exoskeleton capabilities."

Developed by Lockheed Martin through a license from B-TEMIA, ONYX counteracts overstress on the lower back and legs. Using electro-mechanical knee actuators, a suite of sensors and an AI computer, ONYX learns user movements and delivers the right torque at the right time to assist with walking up steep inclines, lifting or dragging heavy loads. An independent study by the University of Michigan confirmed these benefits by showing how ONYX users exerted less energy while walking up an incline with a 40-pound backpack.

A recent award from Popular Science magazine recognised the extent to which ONYX has already made significant technological advances. The new US Army contract will provide enhanced capabilities in advance of soldier trials scheduled for 2019. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

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