An Exoskeleton/Physical Augmentation Requirements meeting was held at the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCOE) at U.S. Army Fort Benning, Georgia, on January 15, 2019. Under direction and guidance from Brig. Gen. David M. Hodne, the Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team Lead and Commandant of MCOE, David Audet, and Andrea Taylor of the Combat Capabilities Development Command-Soldier Center (CCDC-Soldier Center), as well as representatives from the Army Futures Command/Robotics Requirements Division (AFC/RRD), Army Capabilities Integration Center, PEO Soldier, TRADOC Capability Manager-Robotics and Autonomous Systems (TCM-RAS), and other community members came together for an initial meeting focused on Exoskeleton/Physical Augmentation capability requirements.
The Physical Augmentation Working Group (PAWG) was held in response to the quickly expanding role exoskeletons are playing in the commercial, industrial and medical markets and the U.S. Army's interest in exploring the capability for improving soldier lethality, performance and mission readiness. The directives are consistent with Soldier Lethality goals and objectives. The meeting was a follow-up to actions outlined after the 4QFY18 Robotics Autonomous Systems Initial Capabilities Document (ICD) – the road map for autonomous robotic systems and foundation for the much-anticipated Exoskeleton ICD.
RRD's Deputy Director, Ted Maciuba, opened the working session by expressing his views and excitement about the CCDC-Soldier Center's Exoskeleton effort and what it's trying to accomplish for soldiers. The group engaged in an extensive background discussion about "why are we here," citing primarily historical data on past and present efforts to address solution sets to the soldier's load gap. Medical data was also presented.
Since the Chief of Staff of the Army placed exoskeletons as one of the potential materiel solutions to improve soldier lethality, the PAWG has been working closely with the CCDC-Soldier Center, and the community at large, to examine existing solutions in the context of what users need via "User Touch Point" events.
The CCDC-Soldier Center supports the Soldier Lethality-Cross Functional Team (SL-CFT) priorities. The center's science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD and academia to advance soldier and squad performance optimization, readiness and lethality – as well as synthetic training environments.
The draft Capability Development Document, or CDD, will capture common requirements for Exoskeleton/Physical Augmentation capability. This document will then be followed by annexes that will address specific areas of focus for the capability (i.e., movement & maneuver, support & sustainment, explosive ordnance disposal, and so on). Focus areas will be determined by users, the expected path for the on-going "User Touch Point" activities spearheaded by the CCDC-Soldier Center.
The CCDC-Soldier Center Exoskeleton effort is focused on vetting, demonstrating and transitioning high-technology readiness level exoskeleton technologies to improve soldier lethality and mission readiness and reduce the impact of physical loads on soldiers performing difficult tasks. MCOE and PEO Soldier are key partners in the process of gathering data that is relevant to developing the CDD, as well as establishing the roadmap for PEO Soldier's potential next steps, should a technology be selected to move forward.
Raul Esteras-Palos, TCM-RAS, presented a review of progress-to-date, with a discussion on potential key performance criteria and potential key system attributes. David Vazquez, an MCOE representative, will work with the Army exoskeleton actions community to finalize a draft framework. It is anticipated to be completed by May 2019.
The CCDC-Soldier Center will provide power profile data related to the current systems of interest and anthropometric sizing tariffs. Other data in-process includes operational evaluation criteria, validation of performance metrics, and mission readiness criteria utilizing information provided from medical injury/other databases. The CCDC-Soldier Center anticipates a full program update and review to include findings from the on-going "User Touch Point" activities with the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York.