Space & Technology

December 30, 2016
 

DARPA provides state-of-the-art bionic arms to Walter Reed

Cheryl Pellerin
DOD News

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is making available to military amputees the first production versions of a groundbreaking upper-limb prosthesis, according to a DARPA press release.

Dr. Justin Sanchez, director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, delivered the first two advanced “LUKE” arms from a new production line during a ceremony Thursday — evidence that the fast-track DARPA research effort has completed its transition into a commercial enterprise, DARPA officials said.

The ceremony took place at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

“The commercial production and availability of these remarkable arms for patients mark a major milestone in the [DARPA] Revolutionizing Prosthetics program and, most importantly, an opportunity for our wounded warriors to enjoy a major enhancement in their quality of life,” Sanchez said, “and we are not stopping here.”

The RP program is supporting initial production of the bionic arms and is making progress restoring upper-arm control, he added.

“Ultimately we envision these limbs providing even greater dexterity and highly refined sensory experiences by connecting them directly to users’ peripheral and central nervous systems,” Sanchez said.

Arms for service members
As part of the production transition process, DARPA is collaborating with Walter Reed to make the bionic arms available to service members and veterans who are rehabilitating after suffering upper-limb loss, DARPA says.

LUKE stands for “life under kinetic evolution” but is also a passing reference to the limb that Luke Skywalker wore in “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.”

The first production versions of “LUKE” arms, a groundbreaking upper-limb prostheses, were on display during a ceremony at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Dec. 22, 2016 The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is collaborating with Walter Reed to make the bionic arms available to service members and veterans who are rehabilitating after suffering upper-limb loss.

The limbs are being manufactured by Mobius Bionics LLC, of Manchester, New Hampshire, a company created to market the technology developed by DEKA Integrated Solutions Corp., also of Manchester, under DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program.

The prosthetic system allows for dexterous arm and hand movement with grip force feedback through a simple intuitive control system, DARPA says.

The modular battery-powered limb is near-natural size and weight. Its hand has six user-chosen grips and an arm that allows for simultaneous control of multiple joints using inputs that include wireless signals generated by innovative sensors worn on a user’s feet.

Revolutionizing prosthetics
The technology that powers prosthetic legs has advanced steadily over the past two decades, but prosthetic arms and hands are a tougher challenge, in part, because of the need for greater degrees of dexterity, DARPA says.

When the LUKE arm first went into development, people who had lost upper limbs had to use a relatively primitive split-hook device that hadn’t changed much since it was introduced in 1912.

DARPA launched the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program with a goal of getting U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for an advanced electromechanical prosthetic upper limb with near-natural control that enhances independence and improves the quality of life for amputees. LUKE received FDA approval fewer than eight years after the effort began, DARPA says.

Under a recently finalized agreement between DARPA and Walter Reed, DARPA will transfer LUKE arms from an initial production run to the medical center for prescription to patients. Mobius Bionics will train the Walter Reed staff tofit, service and support the arms.
 

Left to right: Army Col. Michael Heimall, director of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.; Air Force Col. (Dr.) Jeffrey Bailey, Walter Reed’s director for surgery; Dr. Paul Pasquina, Walter Reed’s chief of orthopedics and rehabilitation; Dr. Justin Sanchez, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Biological Technologies Office; and Lt. Col. (Dr.) Keith Myers, director of Walter Reed’s Amputee Clinic, pose for a photo at Walter Reed following a ceremony marking the delivery of a groundbreaking upper-limb prosthesis, Dec. 22, 2016.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Historic experimental airplane lost in crash

A one-of-a-kind 1940s-vintage experimental airplane crashed shortly after noon on April 22, killing the pilot. The Northrop N9MB was the sole remaining example of its type, one of four subscale technology demonstrators built du...
 
 

Headlines – April 24, 2019

News Armed Mexican soldiers confronted US soldiers on US soil – Two U.S. soldiers in a remote area of Texas were confronted by Mexican soldiers who thought the Americans had crossed into Mexico, U.S. officials said April 23. The Mexican troops reportedly removed a weapon from the American soldier who was armed.   Trump administration...
 
 

News Briefs – April 24, 2019

Boeing prepares plant for likely Air Force F-15 orders Boeing is preparing to build F-15 fighter planes for the U.S. Air Force at its St. Louis County plant even though the military branch hasn’t bought the jet in over a decade. The Chicago-based company began ramping up its F-15 production line in St. Louis after...