Mech suits have been a fantasy object of science fiction for a long time. They were first seen in fiction in the late 19th Century from a book written by Edward Ellis, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Later on, the suits were normalized in anime and video games. This has created a vivid picture of how the battlefield will look like in the future; giant, man-carrying robot suits.
The titanic behemoths or mechs demonstrate how ambitious humans are and leave us with the question of whether they will be viable soon enough. Science fiction movies like Marvel’s Iron Man have also shown how the newfangled combat suits give soldiers superhuman capabilities.
The hardest part about making the combat suits a reality is the robotic exoskeleton on which the suits are built. Undoubtedly, the military sector has a huge necropolis of exoskeleton projects they are working on and maybe they will become successful in the future.
Will combat mech suits become a reality?
The latest combat suit project looks forward to creating an exoskeleton that can increase the amount of armor a special force’s operator carries. The project by TALOS opened new capabilities for the military industry, although it failed to produce a suit. TALOS reported there were numerous challenges associated with the development of the mech suit.
The main challenge was involved with sensing. It wasn’t easy to create a sensor in the suit that would know when and how to move. With the absence of speedy sensing, there would be a lag between the suit operator and the actual suit, causing a feeling of moving through an ocean of Jell-O.
A second challenge is related to actuation. Creating a machine that can move complex joints like the hips and ankles requires highly advanced, multi-dimensional actuators. Even the most advanced actuators in the industry could not perform this task, resulting in a decreased swiftness.
Additionally, there was a challenge with power generation for the mech suit. On average, a mech suit would use up power equivalent to that of a motorcycle. Other power alternatives were tested but were not the best options. Engines were too rowdy, fuel cells became too hot, and batteries were too weighty and cumbersome. Besides, most power sources are flammable, hence not safe to carry around in a suit.
What is being done to bring the reality closer?
With every mech suit attempt, the military gets closer to finding an answer to the complex puzzle. Scientists are focusing on finding better energy sources that are lighter, safer and powerful. According to the report given by TALOS, the power source will soon be available.
The prosthetics industry is also working tirelessly to develop tremendously advanced biomechanical sensors to help solve the first challenge. With this, the mech suits will automatically detect when the operator needs to move and in what manner. Additionally, numerous participants are working to find the solution for actuation. This is the most challenging part of the suit but TALOS is hopeful that the solution will soon come up.
Several experts have suggested that these challenges will not be the issue that hinders the development of combat mech suits. Science fiction has painted a warm picture for exoskeletons, but history and facts display a different vision. For instance, there was a fight between French knights and a tiny group of British archers in Agincourt. The French knights were dressed in armored suits but they lost to the British Archers. Even though the French did not have advanced technology for their suits like at the moment, it still creates doubt on whether the mech suits will be beneficial.