US Army is developing an exoskeleton to help soldiers shoot straight

The US Army is creating a more accurate armed force thanks to research into the field of aim-assisting exoskeletons. The project, helmed by Army Research Laboratory (ARL) mechanical engineer Dan Baechle, is designed to subtly steady a soldier’s aim while on the battlefield.

US Army is developing an exoskeleton to help soldiers shoot straight

Developed from arm rehabilitation devices for stroke victims, MAXFAS – or mobile arm exoskeleton for firearm aim stabilisation – is intended to improve the aim of servicemen and women when involved in “critical moments of aiming and shooting”. Currently the device is in very early developmental stages, which means it’s actually a completely immobile rig based in an ARL lab.

“The device is not mobile,” explained Baechle to Armed With Science, “but the idea is that we could do the basic experiments here at ARL that would allow for a more mature mobile system that soldiers could use routinely to improve their shooting.”

Baechle came up with the idea for MAXFAS after years of being fascinated by exosuits, inspired in part by Aliens’ Power Loader. With MAXFAS, Baechle saw the potential for an exosuit designed not to deliver strength, like many other US Army exosuit projects are attempting, but to provide subtle assistance to crucial abilities.

Dan Baechle with MAXFAS exoskeleton Army Research Laboratory

“Imagine the benefits of using an image stabiliser for a camera when the photographer is capturing action shots,” said Baechle. “MAXFAS provides that level of stability for your entire arm during the critical moments of aiming and shooting.

“The MAXFAS exoskeleton senses the tremors in your arm that you probably don’t even realise exist. The control algorithms for the device dramatically reduce the shake without locking your arm in place.”

Applications for the device may seem limited to helping us shoot others more accurately. However, for the US Army – who will be shooting people anyway – it ensures human errors through fatigue, being under fire or general involuntary tremors don’t cause unneeded casualties through stray fire. It could also help negate weapon recoil.

In more practical terms, if Baechle and his team can figure out how to turn the static technology into a fully mobile one, exoskeleton technology as a whole will leap forward. This could mean affordable and lightweight mobility devices for those who have lost the ability to walk or move in general. It could give someone their life back.

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