A report on Saturday by the state broadcaster CCTV showed the new passive exoskeletons in use, helping to bring some festivity to Friday’s celebrations. The troops strapped on the smart-braces to get an extra oomph for the last leg of a supply run in China’s Ngari Prefecture.
The area is noted for including some parts of the Chinese-Indian border territory that is a matter of dispute between the two nations.
The border guards received presents and food for their New Year table, according to the report.
In the past, such a delivery would have taken as much as three days, but new roads, all-terrain vehicles, and the exoskeletons make the remote, high-altitude outpost, which is located at over 5km above sea level, more accessible than ever, the report said.
The deployment of the exoskeletons in Ngari was first reported last February.
At the time, CCTV said the model was made for the harsh Himalayan environment and would be deployed to help carry supplies across rough terrain by redistributing a backpack’s weight across a soldier’s body. The strap-on devices were probably the same that the No. 208 Research Institute of China Ordnance Industries reported delivering to the prefecture in November, local media said.
Another type of exoskeleton was advertised by the Chinese military in October, when CCTV released footage of troops carrying large ammunition boxes at an ordnance disposal unit.
The autonomous powered robotic devices augment the strength of a user, rather than simply supporting his skeleton and muscles, and allow pairs of soldiers to haul crates reportedly weighing up to 80kg each.
The report did not disclose the endurance of the unit.
The biggest weakness of current exoskeleton technology, slowing its battlefield application, is a lack of batteries capable of sustaining the power-draining suits for prolonged periods of time.