The Canadian military is now putting a Halifax company's bionic knee brace to the test.
Spring Loaded Technology delivered the first of 60 knee braces to the Canadian Army's headquarters in Ottawa. Another 130 braces will eventually be delivered as part of a $1-million contract awarded under the Build in Canada Innovation Program.
Called the Upshot, the military-grade brace weighs under 0.9 kg and uses a liquid spring technology to absorb shock and reduce impact on soldiers' knees.
Braces to be put to the test
Over the next two weeks, soldier volunteers will put the brace through tests which includes sitting, walking and running on a treadmill, according to Maj. Edward Jun, who is supervising the tests.
In late November, Jun says, the braces will be put through more rigorous tests at the military's support base in Petawawa, Ont., and at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick. Field soldiers will wear the brace as they get in and out of vehicles, march and wear heavy packs.
Spring Loaded Technology CEO Chris Cowper-Smith says it's his company's first big contract in its three and a half years in business.
Making soldiers stronger
"For those who are injured, we can get them back to weight bearing through rehabilitation faster," he said.
According to Jun, rehabilitation is actually a secondary benefit. The braces' primary advantage is making healthy soldiers able to carry more weight.
"Right now we're carrying about 50 per cent more weight than our grandparents were carrying in the First and Second World Wars," Jun said, listing batteries and modern technology as the main culprits for the increase.
'It really takes a load off'
Jun said he doesn't expect there to be any big decrease in the weight soldiers carry anytime soon.
"So we need to tackle this burden from the other direction. Can we give the soldier a knee brace or another external-support mechanism so they can carry just as much weight now, but go faster, [farther] without getting tired."
Jun said he has bad knees from spending 17 years in the infantry. He is personally testing the brace and gives it a positive review. "It really takes a load off," he said.
The military is not committed to purchasing more of these braces. Jun said any future contracts would be awarded on a competitive basis.
Spring Loaded Technology is also pre-selling braces for consumers. They retail for $2,300 and will be available in September.