As a general rule, firefighters are incredibly fit, but their protective clothing, breathing apparatus and other equipment can tip the scales at a hefty 40kg. Monash University student Ken Chen, who is studying his master's degree in design, has created a concept for an exoskeleton that helps firefighters carry a heavy load and fight fire effectively at the same time.
The A.F.A Exoskeleton Suit — that stands for Advanced Firefighting Apparatus — is rated for loads of up to 91kg, which would let firefighters double the load they carry while letting them move around easily. There's no working prototype, but a scale model exists.
There are a few military and industrial exoskeletons in working and concept form around the world, but Chen has focused attention on firefighting after reading about a 2010 Shanghai high-rise apartment fire that killed 58 people.
The huge advantage that a weight-enhancing and distributing exoskeleton offers is in its ability to assist a firefighter in carrying heavy loads, including incapacitated people who have suffered from smoke inhalation. There are some great renders of the A.F.A kit over on Behance, where Chen has detailed its potential and the challenges it has to overcome. [Behance via Discovery]