Crash Test Dummies Help TARDEC Mitigate Blast Injuries

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June 5, 2017 | Originally published by Date Line: June 5 on

It doesn”t take a genius to know that injuries to Soldiers from roadside bombs and their resulting vehicle crashes could take a serious toll on readiness, the Army”s No. 1 priority. In fact, when it comes to testing materials or providing data to evaluate solutions to reduce injuries during these events, it takes a real dummy.

That”s a good thing for the interior blast mitigation team in the Army”s Occupant Protection Laboratory at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan. They use nine crash test dummies in simulated and live tests to measure blast and crash forces on the human skeletal system to improve survivability.

These mannequins, known formally as full-scale anthropomorphic test devices, or life-size ATDs, range from 5 feet tall and 100 pounds to 6 feet tall and 225 pounds, representing about 90 percent of all Soldiers.

Each ATD has a variety of sensors that collect data mined by 45 U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center engineers, physicists and technicians. The mannequins are outfitted with up to 80 pounds of Army field gear before being strapped into seats. Then they are dropped from a tower, placed into simulators or vehicles to be crashed, have their heads slammed against interior vehicle walls, or get blown up in live field tests — all in the name of readiness.

Once the team has collected data from the ATDs, it provides injury assessment reports.  The team also can provide data and recommendations to engineers who design the equipment, leading to better technology to mitigate injuries.

In addition to tests in the labs, the OPL staff conducts tests in the field to mimic training and real-world mishaps.

Looking back at the ATDs with sensors smart enough to lead to improved Soldier survivability and readiness, calling them “dummies” doesn”t give them the credit they deserve. Maybe it does take a genius.