Paramount Group and US-based Sarcos Robotics have announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to bring robotic systems to government and industrial customers in the Middle East and Africa.
The announcement was made during the International Defence Exhibition (IDEX) underway in Abu Dhabi on 24 February.
Paramount said that through the collaboration, the two companies “will explore market opportunities and modifications to Sarcos’ award-winning robotic systems to address the region’s unique requirements in the maritime and aerospace technology arenas. The companies will supply these modified systems to defence, aerospace and commercial customers in the Middle East and Africa.”
Sarcos and Paramount Group will focus their efforts initially on the Sarcos Guardian XO robotic exoskeleton, which has been in development for 20 years and is described as the world’s first full-body, battery-powered wearable robot designed to increase strength and endurance — and the Guardian XT teleoperated dexterous robot, which has been developed to provide human-like dexterity while offering substantially greater strength, stamina and precision on a remote control basis.
The Guardian XO will enable defence and industrial workers to lift and manipulate heavy objects up to 90 kg (200 pounds), such as ammunition, vehicle tires, machinery and plywood, for a full shift or work day, due to its hot-swappable lithium ion batteries, Paramount said.
One worker using a Guardian XO exoskeleton can do the work of 4-10 workers, depending on the task. The Guardian XO exoskeleton has a hands-free feature that locks the robot’s arms in place. This functionality enables the operator to complete multiple tasks at once, such as lifting and holding heavy loads while simultaneously handling dexterous work such as aligning, bolting, welding, and other tool work.
The Guardian XO exoskeleton is expected to be used across a wide variety of industries such as industrial manufacturing, warehousing and logistics, oil and gas, utilities, logistics, construction, automotive, aviation, aerospace, and defence.
The Guardian XT, based on the upper-body portion of the Guardian XO, can be mounted to a variety of mobile bases and can be teleoperated to perform dexterous tasks at height, enabling the lifting and manipulating of heavy objects up to 90 kg that are out of reach or are at a height that makes the task inherently dangerous for a human worker to perform, such as tasks associated with ship and aircraft production and maintenance and in the construction industry. The Guardian XO and Guardian XT are expected to be commercially available in the United States beginning in mid-2022.
The Guardian S multi-purpose remote visual inspection and surveillance robot, a man-portable, cloud-connected IoT sensor platform, will also be available under the MoU. Paramount said the Guardian S robot has been designed to gather visual and sensor-based data regarding critical assets in various facilities. It can be teleoperated and facilitates two-way, real-time video, voice and data communication, performing tasks such as the detection of hazardous materials and gasses, surveillance operations and first-look inspections of environments that are dangerous or difficult for a human to operate within. The Guardian S robotic platform is now available for purchase.
“Sarcos and Paramount share a vision to deliver revolutionary products that improve efficiency and reduce risk of injury in vigorous environments; bolstering workers’ strength and amplifying performance in often ergonomically-stressful environments,” said Ivor Ichikowitz, Chairman, Paramount Group. “We believe that the market opportunity to make an impact in the Middle East and Africa is significant, and we look forward to working with Sarcos to deliver a version of the company’s game-changing robotics, accelerating access to what are today critical technologies, specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of our customers in these regions.”
“The Middle East and Africa are regions that show incredible promise,” said Ben Wolff, chairman and CEO, Sarcos Robotics. “Given Paramount Group’s extensive knowledge and experience within this region, we believe they will be an excellent partner to deliver on our vision for a safer, more productive global workforce.”
In December 2020, Frost & Sullivan gave Sarcos a 2020 Company of the Year Award, saying it stands out with “revolutionary products that are more energy-efficient, functional, and cost-efficient. Its full-body powered robotic exoskeletons combine the best of human intelligence, instinct, and judgment with the strength, endurance, and precision of machines.”
Sarcos spun out from the University of Utah in 1983 and for years operated as a bioengineering research institution. By 2000, it had expanded into segments like animated film props, prostheses, and human-computer interfaces. A US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant to develop a military exoskeleton steered Sarcos toward military applications. After DARPA accepted Sarcos’ proposal in 2006, the company began developing prototypes and contracted with the US Navy to pilot salvage robots, according to VentureBeat.
Raytheon bought Sarcos in November 2007, and from 2007 to 2014 Sarcos operated as Raytheon’s robotics division focused on technologies for governmental use. The company remained a division of Raytheon until 2015, when Sarcos president and entrepreneur Ben Wolff led a group that acquired the business with venture capital backing.
According to VentureBeat, Sarcos claims past customers include NASA, the Department of Homeland Security, Boeing, Ford, Merck, and Xerox PARC. The company retains a defence division called Sarcos Defence — led by ex-military personnel — that works with the US Department of Defence and other federal, state, local, and international government agencies on research, development, and deployment.
In July 2020, Sarcos Defence won a contract with the US Marine Corps for the alpha-version of the Guardian XO exoskeleton. The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) awarded Sarcos Robotics a contract in March 2019 to deliver a pre-production version of the Guardian XO robot.
Sarcos Robotics announced a collaboration with the US Navy in March 2019 for testing the Guardian XO suit and Guardian S robot. The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) & Intermediate Maintenance Facility (IMF) will evaluate and deploy robotic technologies, including full-body, powered exoskeletons, and man-portable inspection robots.
Following an earlier contract, the United States Air Force awarded Sarcos Robotics a development contract in August 2018 for logistics applications of full-body exoskeleton robots.