The Canadian military has begun testing what a company is calling “the world’s first bionic knee brace” to help troops better absorb the impact from carrying all the gear and equipment on the modern battlefield.
The country’s Department of National Defence this week accepted delivery of 60 of the braces, called Upshot and made by Spring Loaded Technology, as part of a $1 million contract order for 190 braces, the company announced in a press release.
Maj. Edward Jun of the Directorate of Land Requirement will supervise the soldiers’ field-testing of the product, which is powerful enough to help lift more than 100 pounds of weight when worn on both knees, according to the release.
The technology “promises to reduce muscle fatigue, enhance strength and performance, and protect against knee injuries — all of which are of great benefit to soldiers required to handle heavy lifting and rugged terrain,” Jun said in the release. “Modern militaries around the world are facing similar human factors challenges, in that we’re asking soldiers to carry more equipment in order to achieve greater capabilities during missions.
“At the same time, technological advances with respect to material sciences has plateaued in reducing the weight of soldier equipment such as helmets, body armour and small arms,” he added. “Trialing a state-of-the art knee brace technology will help us close the gap between the soldiers’ effectiveness on the battlefield and their ability to bear heavy loads with their own strength. We’re looking forward to testing how it performs in field conditions, and training areas across the country.”
As troops carried more equipment over the past decade and a half into combat zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has sought to develop technology to help lighten their load.
For example, U.S. Special Operations Command wants to field the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit — known in military parlance as TALOS and dubbed the Iron Man suit after the one worn by the Marvel Comics superhero — by 2018. The American technology may eventually include a powered exoskeleton, advanced full-body armor and situational-awareness displays. Who knows — maybe it’ll eventually include Upshot or something similar.
The Canadian company is also marketing a commercial version of the product, called Levitation, for $1,750, with the idea it could be used for both injury prevention and rehabilitation.
“While UpShot is built to withstand extreme military impact and expedite rehabilitation for injured soldiers, the Levitation knee brace will help consumers utilize similar technology in their own day-to-day lives,” Chief Executive Officer Chris Cowper-Smith, said in the release. “With power-output similar to that found in $100,000 powered exoskeletons, it’s the first knee brace of its kind that can help average people crouch, walk or jump free from pain.”