When we hear power armor most of us will think of The Brotherhood of Steel but do any of us know what Power Armor actually does? Judging by the name you could guess it’s a form of armor that makes the person who wears it more powerful. In Fallout the armor doesn’t seem to give the wearer super sprint or any super human abilities, it’s just a fancy suit of armor that most likely results in a chronic case of swamp crotch for whoever wears it. Crysis is a better of example of what power armor really is but what is power armor and how could it work in the real world?
You might think the idea of a person someday being able to run around in an Iron Man suit a bit crazy but believe it or not the US military are currently working on developing power armor (or powered exoskeleton as it is also called). Obviously the idea of replicating Iron Man is a bit far-fetched for the moment as we don’t even have anything that resembles power armor yet…or do we?
HAL is a suit that has been developed to aid people with disabilities. Uses for it can be helping elderly perform everyday tasks or deployed in disaster situations to aid people in the rescue operations. While it looks more like a suit from portal rather than Iron Man it is still a step in the right direction. With more funding into new technologies to power the suit the results to give the wearer super human abilities!
The main thing holding back development is power! Robots currently exist that can overpower any human but these often require large power supplies. How is this power meant to be compressed down into something that is portable but able to provide enough power to make it possible? As of right now no energy cell technology exists capable of storing large amounts of energy while remaining portable, but fear not young hobbits NASA may be able to save the day!
Flywheel energy storage is a technology that has been around for quite a while. Gyro busses were developed in the 1950s that were powered using flywheel energy storage. These busses were developed to be a cleaner way to power vehicles and used in places where overhead tram lines were not a possibility. To put it in simple terms they worked like a toy car that you wind up and it will drive, the busses needed to be charged ever so often before they could continue driving. Eventually after X amount of miles the flywheel would lose momentum and need to be recharged. While these busses did work and went into production they never took off, but the research and development into flywheel energy storage has continued.
It is hoped that flywheel energy storage will become small enough that it can be used to replace batteries in mobile devices such as phones. If the same technology could be strapped to soldier’s backs, it could be used to provide power to an exoskeleton.
The Human Universal Load Carrier, or HULC is a suit being developed for the military to enhance the performance of soldiers. From the look of the prototype it might be hard to believe that it is strong enough to do much more than support a soldier’s weight it is intended to be able to carry a load of up to 200 pounds at a top speed of 10 miles per hour for extended periods of timeâ€. Considering the average human runs between 5-8 mph over a long distance, it is quite impressive that a powered suit will allow a human to run faster than the average speed while carrying a hefty weight.
Its no secret that the idea of power armor is incredibly appealing to armies across the worlds. The advantages of having a soldier that can run faster, jump higher, lift heavy objects or even cooler carry heavy weapons that a human wouldn’t normally be able to carry! Add some form of metal plating to shield the soldier from incoming projectiles and we have ourselves a real usable power armor suit. While its not quite the boiler used in fallout it is still a more realistic image of what soldiers of the future could look like.
While it does look very primitive in design we have to remember that science fiction is not real. While it might look stupid, the advantages that it gives the wearer make it properly adhere to the definition of Power Armor. While we are a long way away from Iron Man we are still making steps in the right direction to make it happen.