Support hotline:
(Mon. - Fri.: 09:00 - 18:00)

Aerial Porter Exoskeleton (APEX) makes work at Travis AFB easier and less dangerous

Travis Air Force Base, California, is the test site for a new futuristic exoskeleton that aims to reduce injuries and make it easier for military personnel to do their jobs. Porters - those who carry, load and unload cargo and equipment - are the intended recipients of the exoskeletons because the nature of their work exposes them to injury and they often leave the service with long-term health problems. The carrying aid is called the Aerial Porter Exoskeleton.

Why are exoskeletons needed?

The motivation for the Aerial Porter Exoskeleton comes from a 2019 study , which looked at why so many retired porters need disability benefits.

Technology. Sgt. Landon Jensen, manager of innovation, systems and future command for Air Mobility Command , said, "We started looking at this equipment because of the outcome of the 2019 Volpe study," adding that it "focused on why retired airmen alone cost so much more than $31 million a year in disability pensions."

The study concluded that porters were frequently injured, so a solution was needed to reduce those injuries. This led to the development of the Aerial Porter Exoskeleton, which was the result of a joint effort between Air Mobility Command, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and Arizona State University.

"This project would have been impossible without the help of Arizona State University," said Air Force Life Cycle Management Center program manager 2nd Lt. Aaron Cox. "They focused on the development and manufacturing of the exoskeleton, and without their partnership, we wouldn't have been able to develop this technology."

The suits can help a person pick up objects and take some of the strain off. Without help, this can lead to long-term damage. The system has been tested early by service members at Travis Air Force Base , and so far the results are promising, with airmen reportedly finding their jobs significantly easier.

"The core function of this suit is to help us lift, but it can also be used in other ways," said Airman 1st Class Kyle Sunderman of the 60th Aerial Porter Squadron. "During a load, fatigue can be a real issue, and these exoskeletons really take a lot of the strain off."

"There are little things here and there that the suits can be improved on to make them more user-friendly," added Airman 1st Class Xaviar Archangel. "But there is no danger and these suits don't have the power to overpower the user, so I feel absolutely safe in them."

Thanks to the lightweight material and construction of the Aerial Porter Exoskeleton, users have reported that they can wear it for long periods of time without any problems. "These suits are pretty lightweight," Archangel shared. "You barely notice you're wearing them, except for the bulk around the waist. But other than that, I could honestly wear them for extended periods of time without issue if I needed to."

The exoskeleton itself is not a new idea. The concept has been researched for decades and remains popular in the media and science fiction films. However, the suits have only achieved practicality in recent years. Manufacturing an exoskeleton that can perfectly support the complex movements of the human body is difficult, and doing so with a wearable power supply is even more challenging.

A notable earlier effort was the Hardiman suit, developed by General Electric and the U.S. military in the 1960s and 1970s. It was designed to allow the user to lift 680 kg, but it also weighed that much. It was extremely primitive and its movements were so jerky and aggressive that it was never used with a real human operator.

The Hardiman suit was slow, impractical and dangerous, and the project was unsuccessful. Since then, there have been many other attempts with varying degrees of success.

The Aerial Porter Exoskeleton is much less about lifting large amounts of weight and more about lightly supporting and augmenting a person's abilities. It is worn as part of the operator's uniform and is made of metal and lightweight composite material. Arizona State University's IDEAlab says the exoskeleton is "a wearable hybrid robotic system that assists, enhances and augments a person in their daily activities at home and at work."

Source: Aerial Porter Exoskeleton Makes Work at Travis AFB Easier and Less Dangerous (

Tom Illauer

All contributions from: