Delta Airlines plans to equip employees with these powerful robotic exoskeletons

Whether it’s heavy luggage or fully laden planes that can weigh in excess of 100,000 pounds, working for an airline can involve shifting some pretty sizable weight. Could robot exosuits help make everything a little bit easier? That’s what Delta, one of the biggest airlines in the United States, is hoping to find out, courtesy of a new partnership with Sarcos Robotics.

At CES, the two companies announced a team-up that will let Delta test out Sarcos’ battery-powered, full-body exoskeletons. These robotic suits, which Sarcos has been working on for years, allow human wearers to lift up to 200 pounds repeatedly for periods of eight hours at a time, without suffering strain or risk of fatigue. It’s one of the first major outings for the Guardian XO exosuit, which Digital Trends wrote about at the end of last year.

The Sarcos Guardian XO Exoskeleton was selected by our editors as the best product in the Emerging Tech category at CES 2020. Check out more of our Top Tech of CES Award winners.
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“Our partnership with Delta is significant, as they are the first company whose frontline employees have worked directly with our Sarcos team to determine potential use cases for the Guardian XO,” Kristi Martindale, executive vice president of product strategy and chief customer officer for Sarcos Robotics, told Digital Trends. “We will be deploying a Guardian XO Alpha unit in a Delta location during the first quarter of 2020 to give their frontline employees the opportunity to experience the technology in a real-world, on-the-job setting.”

Both Delta and Sarcos will get something out of the partnership. Delta will get to try out the Aliens’ Power Loader-style exosuits in a range of areas, such as handling freight at Delta Cargo warehouses, moving maintenance components at Delta TechOps, and working with ground support.

Sarcos, meanwhile, will be able to see how its exosuit does in a functioning work environment. Martindale said that this will provide, “meaningful data to influence our final product, which will be commercially available to customers in late 2020.”

The Guardian XO suit will eventually go on sale in the third quarter of 2020, with a price of $100,000 per unit. The suits will also be available for rental as part of one of the world’s first “robots-as-a-service” subscription models. After that, you can expect to see it in a lot lot more places. including other airlines.

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