Delta Air Lines may outfit some employees with 'wearable robotics'

David Allison
Sarcos Robotics Guardian Exoskeleton.
Source: Sarcos Robotics

Delta Air Lines is exploring the possibility of outfitting some of its employees with "wearable robotics."

The Atlanta-based airline said Thursday it's joined the Exoskeleton Technical Advisory Group (X-TAG) that will think about the best ways to bring full-body, powered industrial exoskeleton systems to the workforce. Led by Sarcos Robotics, other X-TAG members include Bechtel, BMW, Caterpillar, GE, Schlumberger and additional leading companies representing aviation, construction, heavy machinery and utilities.

"There is no greater responsibility we have than to keep our people and our customers safe," said Gil West, Delta's chief operating officer, in a statement. "This X-TAG is an innovative opportunity to think about how fitting our employees with wearable robotics can build on our strong personal safety culture and further protect our people from injury by giving them an additional layer of strength and protection." Read the full announcement here.

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The Sarcos Guardian XO and XO MAX robots are battery-powered exoskeletons that enable workers to perform hours of physical activity that would otherwise be impossible for a single human to perform, the company says. The Guardian XO robot is capable of repeatedly lifting and supporting up to 80 pounds without fatigue or strain for up to a four-hour work session. The XO MAX is capable of lifting and supporting up to 200 pounds without fatigue or strain for up to an eight-hour work session.

According to Sarcos, the human operator bears none of the load of the exoskeleton or its payload, and can be donned and doffed in 30 seconds. These exoskeletons require minimal operator training because they permit natural, fluid and intuitive movement.

The Guardian XO and XO MAX robots are in development and are expected to be commercially available in late 2019.