Engineer Designs Exoskeleton Arm to Improve Shooting Accuracy

Dan Baechle is the lead investigator on MAXFAS, a mechatronic arm exoskeleton that is designed to improve firearm aim stabilization with motors that pull the arm with cables, like a puppeteer and control algorithms that stabilize the arm and damp out the tremors that naturally occur when most people shoot firearms.

A mechanical engineer at the Army Research Lab is building a mechatronic arm exoskeleton to both train soldiers to shoot and improve soldiers’ accuracy in combat.

The exoskeleton is designed to eliminate the non-voluntary tremor in a shooter’s arm while aiming and shooting. Much like a puppet, the exoskeleton has a series of motors and cables to dampen the tremor to allow shooters to gain greater accuracy.

Dan Baechle started working on the program called MAXFAS while earning his Master’s degree at the University of Delaware. He got the idea for the device after seeing how exoskeletons help stroke victims relearn how to use limbs.

Baechle has brought the project to ARL where he works on it in his free time and is trying to find funding to continue research and testing on the project.

In tests, Baechle has found that his exoskeleton arm can help novice shooters because even after taking the device off shooters have seen a reduction in the amount of involuntary movement.

He said this would be the near term use for the exoskeleton arm because it would allow the device to remain stationary.

The best marksmen can train themselves to reduce involuntary movements when shooting with different methods such as controlled breathing. It’s harder to execute though when a soldier is fatigued. Baechle has his sights set on designing an arm that soldiers could wear in combat.

However, designing the exoskeleton for wear on the battlefield is further in the future because of the challenges of shrinking the motors and power source to a weight and size that would not slow down soldiers, Baechle said.

The arm exoskeleton is built of carbon fiber and weighs under a pound. However, the motors and cables are heavy and too unwieldy for a soldier to carry in combat, Baechle said.

MAXFAS could have a future in the Army’s pursuit to build a next generation combat suit for future soldiers called the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit – better known as the Iron Man program.

“That’s a system that’s being developed for a very specific type of operation so they have different goals but that’s not to say it couldn’t work,” Baechle said.

— Michael Hoffman can be reached at

Dan Baechle is the lead investigator on MAXFAS, a mechatronic arm exoskeleton that is designed to improve firearm aim stabilization with motors that pull the arm with cables, like a puppeteer and control algorithms that stabilize the arm and damp out the tremors that naturally occur when most people shoot firearms.

  • guest

    Oh give me a break!!!

  • fcharles

    Didn’t we just give 40,000 Army soldiers their walking papers? WTF are we spending money on?

  • guest

    The fact is: to be good pistol shot requires practice and range time. Something the military is not willing to provide to the average service member that might be issued a pistol to carry. Until they provide plenty of practice/range time service members are going to be mediocre, at best, pistol shots.

    • Steve Lusk

      Absolutely true, because the services do not have the money for regular practice (except special ops) and the average troop doesn’t have the time. This weed whacker isn’t going to help one bit.

  • tom

    What the h… are they talking about? Let me put my rifle down and try my side arm, its more comfortable. Anyone can shoot a target of the size of a human been at 25m. We don’t need anything beyond that. My son is in the guard, never been issued an M9. He took my FS92 and with 6 rds he got on paper at 100m, but took 4-5 seconds for each shot. Do our soldiers have that kind of time? Stop wasting my tax dollars. Give my kid better armor, better commo equipment, good air and arty backup AND please END this BS in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are done.

    • John


      lf you conduct a short search on the ole Interweb, you will find that many police officers miss at much shorter distances than 25 meters. In most shootings involving LEOs, there are more missed shots than hits.

      Take care and I hope you son stays safe in the NG.

  • ReconMan

    This is a good thing only if it furthers the larger work on the exoskeleton. This makes sense in a known distance scenario on a range. However, the stabilization of the shooting arm to facilitate achievement of many 10x strikes on paper has almost nothing to do with combat shooting. Additionally, the pistol is so rarely used in combat that prioritization of this particular activity for exoskeleton development seems to reflect a lack of analysis of soldier needs. Hopefully this is just a crew of engineers toying with the concepts to achieve the leg are goals, and not really intending the final outcome to only benefit a pistol shooter on a KD firing line.

    • seans

      So the stabilization of the arms doesn’t apply to rifles? Or having something that helps my arms be still after sprinting 100 yards with over 80 pounds of gear isn’t helpful in combat?

      • ReconMan

        Take a look at Tracking Point for a fielded rifle system accomplishing what you describe.

        • seans

          Yeah, tracking point sucks, its a crappy design, its why they went under, and doesn’t do what this is working for.

      • SAM

        Sounds like it may be time to pass the rifle to someone who is in better condition.

        • seans

          You ever try to shoot a MK48 after carrying it 10 klicks, then sprinting the last couple hundred yards to cover from the standing. Not exactly easy to keep rounds on target. Even if your are amazing shape.

          • Joshua

            Of course he hasn’t. Otherwise he wouldn’t have posted such a stupid comment.


    You won’t see this crap in the Marine Corps that’s for sure. IMO this is a huge waste of money, time and effort that could have and should have been spent on something else worthwhile.

  • Leo Johnson

    I agree this is a bunch of Hogwash.But to kids who never learned how to ‘HUNT and would probably save their lives .To be a good shooter you need to Practice ,practice,practice ,a lot.I did when I was a kid.I did it by Hunting.I went hunting almost every weekend .I learned how to shoot at a standing still target ,a target that was laying down in a prone position .I learned hoe to use the wind to hit a target I learned how to use elevation and de elevation to hit a target Today’s children are not learning this on how to survive in the wild on their own.Those living in the countryside are probably learning how to survive in the wild but those living in the large cities aren’t .You have to learn how to shoot early in life and I’m glad that I did I proved it in boot camp and everytime I went to weapon’s training I have the Navy’s and Marines “Expert Rifleman and Expert Pistol Metals and Ribbons. I didn’t need no technical machine connected to wither of my armies.I learned how to do this all by myself.

  • Wow

    The army is trying to live up to cod advanced warfare I see

  • Zspoiler

    What are you going to do without the darn thing. In the Marine Corps we learned how to rely on and work on our skills. I was one of those kids who grew up in the countryside.I learned to hunt and fish at an early age. Don`t rely on “toys” .Spend the time on working with those who haven`t had the experience of those who have. Do more with less.And not some machine to make a contractor money.

  • SAM

    Or we could simply allow soldiers to get more range time and live fire training time, we could train to standards and not do it to check the box. Familiarity improves accuracy. Making soldiers who are true instructors teach marksmanship would be more effective than this idea. I am sure there are a few millionaires who would really like this though. Sell it to them and make a profit from the private sector, don’t screw our tax payers with the bill for this crap.

  • JohnD

    Improved weapons handling doesn’t need gadgets, it needs range time, ammo and proper instruction! With all these budget cuts, soldiers will be lucky to,see a range never mind shoot at one!

  • MJH

    Military planners and allocators of funding trying to identify the “next big thing” so they can put a feather in their cap because they proposed the idea, got it approved and managed it to completion. Is this really furthering the capability of our troops or is someone just out there “empire building”…

  • warscent

    Most of you guys don’t seem to understand that developments like this are important to future EXO programs,not as some gadget thrown at the DOD for use “as is.”
    However, if a portable super light system like this is developed for combat use it would be quite useful.
    Imagine a tired squad sprinting a mile uphill in full gear. Once at the top they manage to engage the enemy with accurate rifle fire despite being out of breath, trembling from fatigue, and possibly even wounded.
    What about returning fire with precision while carrying your wounded 300ib battle buddy out of the hot mess?
    What about perfect accuracy after getting to the top of a 12 story stairwell to clear a rooftop?
    This would be a super human ability.

  • Roll some of this POTting soil in a darkish newspaper napkin or carrier (Brownspliff,

    maybe named following the Gov.