Soldiers depend on the battery life in their electronic devices like radios, GPS systems, night vision goggles while out on a mission. According to Noel Soto, project engineer at the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center, studies have shown that 16 to 20 pounds of the heavy loads soldiers carry comes from batteries.
"While the standard resupply mission is currently 72 hours, military operations are becoming increasingly expeditionary -- often with a special-ops focus -- pushing resupply missions out to five or more days," said Edward Plichta, Command, Power and Integration Directorate's Chief Scientist for Power & Energy, under the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center.
To remedy issues like this, the army has been focused on finding alternative ways to power gear. In 2016, the army began testing a device that straps to Soldiers’ legs and generates power just by walking. The device, now called The Power Walk®, is a lightweight energy harvester that generates electricity walking, much like how regenerative braking works in hybrid cars. The harvester’s on-board microprocessors analyze the wearer’s gait to determine when to generate maximum power with the least amount of effort.
Other energy-harvesting innovations, like the Energy Harvester Assault Pack, reuse the energy exerted naturally from Soldiers’ movements. Not only is this reusable energy guaranteed to have a protracted battery life, but it also frees up space in Soldiers’ bags, lightening their loads and allowing more room for necessities like water, food, and ammunition.
The next phase of the energy harvesting development focuses on creating and providing power beyond just charging batteries. Accomplishing this could mean that power can be provided to all Soldier-wearable devices, like the Product Manager Soldier Warrior's NETT Warrior device, through a Soldier power management system.
Valuable innovations like these are created to benefit our Soldiers so they not only have to carry the weight of batteries, but also so they can extend their mission with the same battery. With improvements in technological innovations, the possibilities of helping our Soldiers are endless.
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