Delta Prepares Trial of Maintenance Exoskeleton
Although much of the basic tooling in today’s hangars hasn’t changed much in 50 years, incremental modernization has occurred through the introduction of new technologies such as inspection drones, mobiles devices and robotic arms.
Delta Air Lines employees will take the next--powered--step this quarter when they don a fully powered exoskeleton at a pilot location for the airline.
Potential uses at Delta could include handling freight at Delta Cargo warehouses, moving maintenance components at Delta TechOps or lifting heavy machinery and parts for ground support equipment.
The full-body exoskeleton will allow them to lift up to 200-lb. with ease and is designed to move in harmony with their bodies.
However, superhuman capabilities are only one goal of the suit’s design, its developer told MRO Network last year.
“It can enable someone to work longer and where you may need several people to perform a given task, if a single individual can move an item on their own then other workers can do other tasks,“ said Kristi Martindale, chief marketing officer for Sarcos Robotics.
Another expected benefit is a reduction in workplace injuries, particularly back strains, which cost American companies a huge amount each year.
The electrically actuated Guardian XO has quick-change batteries and can run all day on a single charge. Delta Air Lines is part a technical advisory group including other aerospace companies that has provided feedback to Sarcos, with mooted applications including hangar and baggage handling tasks.
Rather than sell its exoskeletons, Sarcos will rent them—along with full-service support—for between $100,000 to $150,000 per year.
And while such advanced technology would certainly lend a sci-fi feel to the workplace, we are unlikely to see hangars teeming with mechanized workers any time soon, both due to the cost and the fact that heavy lifting is only one aspect of maintenance work.