Here are a couple of personal transport/propulsion systems that came my way.
(1) The HULC, and (2) The DTV Shredder.
1. HULC or Human Universal Load Carrier by Lockheed Martin is a wearable robot system made of titanium and powered by hydraulic actuators, giving the wearer the ability to carry up to 200 lbs while traversing rough terrain. The battery pack is designed to last for 72 hours enabling the device to be totally unconnected to external power during operation. Future versions will run on fuel cells.
The HULC is a completely un-tethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton that provides users with the ability to carry loads of up to 200 lbs for extended periods of time and over all terrains. Its flexible design allows for deep squats, crawls and upper-body lifting. There is no joystick or other control mechanism. The exoskeleton senses what users want to do and where they want to go. It augments their ability, strength and endurance. An onboard micro-computer ensures the exoskeleton moves in concert with the individual. Its modularity allows for major components to be swapped out in the field. Additionally, its unique power-saving design allows the user to operate on battery power for extended missions. The HULC’s load-carrying ability works even when power is not available.
Here is a link to Lockheed Martin’s page on this system. There are 3 videos and many pictures available at the site for download. The HULC was developed at Lockheed Martin’s Missile and Fire Control division in Grand Prairie, Texas.
Raytheon’s first version of the exoskeleton robot is called Sarcos, but their system has cables and hydraulic hoses hooked up to an external machine. Here is a link to a Youtube video. Raytheon’s second generation exoskeleton, XOS2, also has cables and hoses, but it is lighter and uses 50% less power than the previous one.
Apart from the obvious military applications of HULC, there are numerous civilian uses that one can readily think of. This is an awesome invention indeed.
2. DTV Shredder: The Dual Track Vehicle is a crossover between a skate board and an ATV. It has dual tracks powered by a Honda 200 cc 4-stroke engine in its current form, giving it a top speed of 30 mph. The DTV Shredder is a creation of the 7-man company called BPG-Werks from Ontario, Canada, founded by its namesake Benjamin P. Gulak. BPG-Werks is a division of Gulak’s other company BPG-Motors, which developed a unique electric motorcycle called the Uno, that can switch from a unicycle format (two parallel wheels) to conventional serial-wheeled format.
The DTV Shredder has a turning radius of 4 ft., can haul up to 1200 lbs. and can traverse all kinds of terrains and steep gradients. The vehicle can be operated, remotely or autonomously with appropriate controllers, without a human operator, to haul equipment or wounded people in a trailer.
The company is hoping to sell a military version to the US military. The company is presently accepting $250 fully refundable down payments from potential customers.
3. (Update on this article Oct 08, 2010) A company called Berkeley Bionics was the original inventor of the technology behind HULC, developed at the Berkeley Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory. Berkeley Bionics licensed the HULC technology to Lockheed Martin who will develop the product for military applications.
Berkeley Bionics has released a civilian product for paraplegics called the eLEGS on October 7th, 2010. It helps wheel-chair bound people to walk untethered for several hours. Check out the company website for more pictures, videos and a link to their blog.
Here is a link to the Popular Science article which also has a video. What a marvelous and useful technology indeed.