Many North American exoskeleton developers owe their beginnings to U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) investments. Yet, no military exoskeletons or wearable robots are deployed for any application. Part of this lack of technology adoption stems from the difficulties of navigating the U.S. Navy and Army bureaucracy. Hope Hodge Seck has published an excellent article on Politico titled: "The decade-long quest to deliver a modern-day target practice highlights the broken world of military acquisition." (link).
While not about exoskeletons, the Politico article vividly describes how approved, and validated technology is still not implemented by the Army today. The main points that ring true for exoskeletons are:
- Successful technology trials are not enough, there is a lot of red tape to clear. This can include budgeting, testing, evaluations, requirement documents, a program of records, etc...
- There have to be sponsors that will shepherd the acquisition of the technology from within.
The Politico article is a fantastic read and highly recommended for those wondering what military exoskeletons are going through. Furthermore, it illustrates two key learnings:
- The cost of exoskeletons is not their main adoption hurdle (the Politico article revolves around wheeled robots that are far more expensive).
- Adopting exoskeletons for DoD will require professional help. These can be veteran professionals and/or dedicated to the proliferation of exoskeleton technology organizations.
- It will be a community effort. Collectively, exoskeleton technology will have to prove its worth before individual producers can begin to compete against each other. At this point in time, tearing down one supplier will only undermine all exoskeleton developers.
Source: Military Exoskeletons and the Fight With Bureaucracy Military Exoskeleton Report. (18.10.2022)