Second Generation Combat Helmet Sensors for U.S. Military

The U.S. Military in order to carry on research, for obtaining protection from blast induced head injuries and other long-term goals of achieving strong technological equipments, have signed contracts amounting to $17 million each for second generation helmet sensors.

These will be used by six BCTs (Brigade combat teams) from January 2011. As the number of troops terrorized by IEDs (Improvised explosive devices) is on the increase, the military aims at utilizing the information salvaged from these sensors, to figure out the forces that work on the helmet and on the head of the soldier wearing the helmet. This was revealed by a soldier, belonging to the PEO department, which helps in obtaining superior uniforms and safety gear for the troops.

The Gen II helmet sensor will be mounted on the ACH’s (Advanced combat helmet) interior of the crown. It is superior technologically when compared to the Gen I sensors, fitted into seven BCTs in 2009 March. The Gen II sensors measure not only the blast pressure and linear acceleration, but also capture rotational acceleration data. It will also include a LED indicator light, which will start blinking when the sensor identifies a blast pressure more than a particular threshold level. This is to help in spotting potential head injuries in soldiers, who are stunned and bewildered by a blast, but yet persist in their duties, ignoring concussion. The real time data downloading system will help in recognizing brain trauma in the personnel. Gen I sensors were connected manually to a PC through a USB cable to download data; but in Gen II the data is recovered wirelessly, and it also has more data storage capacity and superior battery power management.

The Gen I sensors was manufactured by BAE Systems, which is also conducting further research on its HEADS (Headborne Energy Analysis and Diagnostic Systems) technology, and is one of the two firms to be granted a contract to manufacture Gen II sensors, the second firm being Allen Vanguard, a global leader in production of bomb suits and counter IED technologies, where a lot of research has been conducted along with NRL (Naval Research Lab), on sensor rigged helmeted test models.

Simbex a R&D firm famous for its HIT (head impacted telemetry) technology also joins the BAE and Allen Vanguard in the design efforts. Simbex engineers have researched the blunt force impacts endured by NCAA and NFL football players and also covering the more complex types of blasts experienced by the military personnel while facing an IED. In Simbex, the spotlight is on identifying head acceleration instead of the normal helmet acceleration, by using complicated techniques and multiple sensors on foam or springs, in the interior of the helmet. The sensors design sees to it that multiple points of contact with the soldier’s head are maintained to determine an accurate reading of the forces impacting the brain, leading to serious injuries or concussion. Simbex combat helmet research was sponsored by a SBIR grant given by the U.S. Department of Defense. Based in New Hampshire, Simbex was established by an entrepreneur Robert Dean Jr. and Dr. Richard Greenwald, an engineering professor in Dartmouth.


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