MM: Lightweight Exoskeletons; DARPA's Drone Retrieval Plans

In this Manufacturing Minute episode, a lightweight exoskeleton for the masses and DARPA’s plans to pluck drones out of the sky.

A Lightweight, Inexpensive Exoskeleton

The joints of the human body have limitations that become more pronounced after an injury and as we age. But what if there was something out there that could help us to do things like lift more weight, walk farther and run at faster speeds? Well San Francisco startup Roam Robotics hopes to bring an exoskeleton for the masses to accomplish just that. 

Still in the early stages, Roam Robotics has developed a lightweight, inexpensive exoskeleton made predominately of plastic and high-strength fabric that doesn’t sacrifice the power associated with bulkier electromechanical exoskeletons. The company’s solution involves using fabric and an attached compressor to create air cavities that are attached to a brace. The brace fits over a user's joints to apply external torque in just the right way.

Roam Robotics hopes to make a product that costs much less than electromechanical exoskeletons by using inexpensive manufacturing techniques like sewing and injection molding. The entire unit, consisting of the braces, a small battery, electronics board and lightweight compressor in a small backpack, could weigh five pounds or less.

Demonstrating a functioning product is probably a few years away. 


Do you think products like this would take off in the consumer market? What about for warehouse and manufacturing use? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below. 

DARPA’s “SideArm” Crane Catapults & Retrieves Drones From The Sky 

DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is essentially the U.S. military’s R&D branch. And one ongoing project that has long captured their interest is in trying to devise a way to safely and securely land drones in remote locations. 

Well, last week DARPA researchers released footage of one study’s progress called “Project SideArm.” The project’s goal is to create a mobile crane that would, ideally, be able to snatch drones or UAVs out of thin air, thus eliminating the idea of “landing” altogether.

As you’ll see from the scaled-down experiment in the video, DARPA’s crane shows a Lockheed Martin drone being fired at the crane’s hook, rail and net setup. If this tech looks familiar it’s because DARPA basically borrowed the science needed to slow and trap jets that land on airplane carrier and applied it to achieve SideArm’s goals. 

And although this is still obviously in the testing phase, the “SideArm” launch and retrieval system would also ideally fit inside a shipping container, thus making it possible to transport by rail, truck, airplane, ship or helicopter. 


Do you think DARPA’s all-in-one launch and retrieval system could work? Can you think of a more efficient or effective solution to solve the military’s problem? Tweet me @MnetNews or leave your comments in the section below. 

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