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The First Military RoboSuits: HULC

HULC, or Human Universal Load Carrier, is a product of Lockheed Martin, a US defence contractor. It is loosely based on a similar design from Berkeley Bionics of California, but with significant enhancements. It is still a long way from a practical robosuit of course, but is definitely on the right track: Power is the only problem.

HULC grounds all the weight that is put on it, so none has to be lifted by the wearer. It is pneumatic, and senses its wearer's movements, moving to anticipate. This makes it often feel like it weighs nothing at all, itself. HULC is designed to support up to 200lbs of equipment, as well as the soldier. It can maintain a steady pace if the soldier cannot, walking at 3, 7, or 10 miles per hour, until its power runs out.

The exoskeleton is just a framework, covering the legs, looping round the chest and neck. There is no arm component, so the user's manipulative strength is not increased. However, a wide variety of armour has been designed to literally clip onto the framework, and thus become part of the soldier, turning them from a human into a walking tank. There are even a number of heavy weapons mounts, to place a medium sized cannon or minigun onto the soldier's shoulder and have the HULC take the weight directly. A front harness is strong enough to lift artillery shells, or a wounded soldier off the battlefield.

However, as said before, power is a definite problem. By default, the HULC comes with two 4lb batteries. These provide the 250 watts of continuous power the exoskeleton needs, for only a very limited time: One hour at 3mph, 20 minutes at 7mph, or a whopping 6 minutes at 10 mph. An alternative fuel engine weighing 85 lbs, can be strapped on. The jet fuel that this burns will keep the suit working for 24 hours, at a steady walking pace of 3mph, or 8 hours running at 7mph - or any combination in between. The problem there is a mixture of noise, and cutting in half the weight that can be added.

As a nice side feature, its modular: one leg gets damaged in combat? Just detach, and snap a new one on. Even if your natural leg cannot take your weight, the suit can. Run out of power on the battlefield? Unbuckle two harnesses and slide your head out. Suit will fall to the ground, and you are free to continue on your way. It folds up to the size of a backpack itself, when unloaded; several could be stored on a bigdog or similar system moving with the soldiers.

Unless the power consumption issue can be solved - ideally with higher capacity batteries, or a lighter on board fuel engine - the HULC is not going to see serious combat usage, being fir for light skirmishes only. However, it is powerful reminder of just how close we are getting to the days of power armour for the military.



Bulk up with the incredible Berkely Bionics HULC

HULC? Promotional PDF


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