Bionic Power Inc. has received a contract valued at $1.25 million from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to supply low-volume production units of its PowerWalk Kinetic Energy Harvester for field trials under the Joint Infantry Company Prototype (JIC-P) Program. This contract is in addition to Bionic Power’s existing contracts with the U.S. Army.
“Military organizations around the world are looking for ways to take weight off the backs of their troops,” says Yad Garcha, Bionic Power’s CEO. “Wearing one of our PowerWalk harvesters reduces battery weight while providing continuous life-saving power in the field for communications, navigation, and optics. That’s a pretty compelling value proposition for military decision makers.”
The objective of the U.S. military JIC-P program is to develop and test a system to provide power for dismounted infantry in order to reduce logistics resupply challenges and increase self-sustainability. The JIC-P program recently received a 2016 Edison Award, which recognizes excellence and leadership in innovation and game-changing products and services.
The PowerWalk—an important component of the JIC-P system—is a lightweight, leg-mounted exoskeleton designed to accommodate a soldier’s full range of motion and harvest energy from the natural action of walking, in much the same way regenerative braking works in hybrid cars.
With every stride, the PowerWalk’s on-board microprocessors analyze the wearer’s gait using Bionic Power’s proprietary control software to determine precisely when to generate maximum power with the least amount of effort. On level ground, the device requires minimal user effort to harvest power and, while power generation is its primary benefit, the PowerWalk also reduces muscle fatigue during downhill amount of effort.
“A soldier typically carries 16 to 20 lb. in batteries on a 72-hour mission,” says Noel Soto, U.S. Army systems engineer at the Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center. “If a soldier can generate power with wearable energy-harvesting devices, it means we can not only reduce the weight on his or her back, we also minimize the unit’s reliance on field resupply, making it possible for us to extend the duration and effectiveness of a mission.”
Joint testing of Bionic Power’s PowerWalk device under this new contract will begin with the Marine Corps and the Army in early to mid-2017.
“Field trials play a crucial role in helping us determine future small-unit power programs for both the Marine Corps and the Army,” says Eric South, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) technical lead for JIC-P. “We need data and direct feedback from base exercises in order to develop the technologies and systems that will get our troops to power independence, the point at which they are generating and managing as much power as they are consuming.”
These field trials also play an important role in helping Bionic Power prepare for volume production.
“Every military customer has different requirements for the PowerWalk, from technical specifications for batteries and connectors to the way the camouflage looks on the padding,” says Garcha. “Deploying multiple units for real-world testing not only supports ongoing development and refinement of the product, but also enables us to develop our production capacity so we’re ready for larger-scale deployments in the future.”
Source: Bionic Power