Even as the US begins to withdraw from Afghanistan, IEDs remain a constant threat to our forces. But the US Army's top brass is turning this threat into an opportunity using a new, integrated sensor suite. Now, with every IED attack, the US Army learns how to better treat and prevent the destruction and mayhem they cause.
Developed by the US Army’s Rapid Equipping Force in collaboration with the Georgia Tech Research Institute, the Integrated Blast Effects Sensor Suite (I-BESS) is a series of soldier- and vehicle-mounted, networked pressure sensors and accelerometers that provide a more complete look at a blast.
“I don’t want this to sound wrong, but the data we collect from these explosions is very important for us to measure how these blasts affect a soldier’s head and body,” Amy O’Brien, of the Rapid Equipping Force (REF), explained to Military.com.
The system consists of a set of four sensors, called the Soldier Body Unit (SBU), strapped to a soldier's carrier plate (two on the front, two on the back) as well as individual sensors mounted in the floors and seats of MRAPs — "mine resistant, ambush protected" vehicles — to measure the effects of the vehicle's occupants. Each sensor will record important details such as time, orientation, and direction and strength of the blast and share that data via bluetooth with a six-pack sized, ruggedised squad computer from GE’s Intelligent Platforms. From there, the data is forwarded to the DoD's Blast Injury Research Program for analysis.
The US Army rushed 1000 prototype units to troops in Afghanistan last year and outfitted 42 vehicles with sensors as well ahead of the 2014 pullout. Future iterations of the I-BESS will aim to reduce the $US2500/unit cost and reduce the system's weight. Army officials are confident that ramping up production of the I-BESS to match that of current generation of $US75 blast sensors will help the price drop, while redesigning the pair of 3V batteries and thick protective case that power and protect the SBU will get the wearable sensor suite down to just 230g in weight. [GE Reports, Military]