New recharging suit for soldiers

The U.S. armed forces have been grappling for years with how to reduce the weight ground troops carry with them on patrol. The problem: the “Christmas tree effect,” in which radios and a variety of other electronics are increasingly hung on their body armor like ornaments, weighing them down in the field.

Defense contractor BAE Systems has developed a new suit known as Broadsword to combat that and demonstrated it this week at the annual conference of the Association of the United States Army in Washington. The suit includes woven fabric that conducts electricity and transmits data without cords, allowing combat troops to cut down on batteries and recharge their equipment while plugged into the suit or inductive “charging pouches,” said Chris Colston, a business development director for BAE.

“Because of the weave, there is infinite ways that the power and and data can make it through,” Colston said.

The Army and the Marine Corps both are evaluating the system, Colston said. It is powered by a flexible battery along its wearer’s spine that recharges each time he or she sits down on a “charging pad” mounted to a vehicle suit. It looks like this:

This image released by BAE Systems shows how a pad mounted to a seat recharges its new wearable power system, Broadsword. (Photo courtesy BAE Systems)
The company does not say what material the conductive yards use. But it says it has proven that it will not electrocute soldiers, and included a power management system that allows them to turn on or off the recharging to the devices of their choice. It works with existing radios, an effort to get the suit fielded sooner rather than later.

“We recognize that if we’re going to introduce something like this, it needs to work with existing systems,” Colston said.

By Dan Lamothe (Washington Post)


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