The Marine Corps is moving ahead with plans to test a wearable robotic exoskeleton that conjures up images of that power-loader suit Ellen Ripley wore to take down a space monster in the movie "Aliens."
By the end of the year, the service will have a Guardian XO Alpha full-body robotic exoskeleton that allows one person to do the work of four to 10 people, depending on the task. The wearable suit can do hours of physical labor that would otherwise be impossible for a Marine to do alone, lifting and moving up to 200 pounds of gear repeatedly for eight hours straight.
The contract between the Marine Corps Logistics Innovation Office program and Sarcos Defense, a subsidiary of Sarcos Robotics, which creates the high-tech suit, was announced Tuesday.
"As the U.S. Marine Corps focuses on logistics and sustainment modernization as one of their key priorities and looks to reduce the manpower required to conduct expeditionary operations, the Guardian XO is well-suited to fulfill a wide variety of logistics applications to address their needs and requirements," the announcement from Utah-based Sarcos Defense states.
A Sarcos representative declined to say how much each Guardian XO suit costs, saying only that the price tag is about the same as an employee who makes $52,000 annually, plus their taxes, benefits, supervision and other expenses.
A Guardian XO prototype was on display during the 2019 Modern Day Marine expo in Quantico, Virginia. Jim Miller, Sarcos Robotics' vice president of defense solutions, said the suit will fit Marines ranging from 5 feet, 2 inches tall to someone who's 6 feet, 2 inches.
The Guardian XO suit is perfect for logisticians who move heavy equipment or artillery.
"Instead of a team of four Marines, maybe you only need a Marine with this capability to offload pallets or move or load munitions," Miller said, adding that the company was inspired by science fiction when looking for ways to help troops carry out their duties.
Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger's planning guidance calls for Marines to test unmanned and robotic systems. Sarcos Defense's release says the Guardian XO Alpha will allow smaller teams of Marines dispatched to far-flung places to do more with less.
"The ultimate goal is to provide troops with an edge by boosting their capabilities and dramatically improving safety and productivity in a variety of logistics applications," the company said.
Ben Wolff, Sarcos Defense's chief executive officer, said the suit can also help the military cut down on injuries tied to heavy lifting.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the suit's height limitations.