Helmets Packed with Technology

8/1/2012


High-tech headgear may be the next wave in connected devices. We’ve all heard about the “Google Glasses” that will supposedly provide augmented reality-style information in a glasses display. But connectivity is also coming to head-worn devices developed for a rougher lifestyle.

For instance, Boeing, www.boeing.com, will integrate a sensor-based helmet into its F-15 Silent Eagle demonstrator aircraft. Called the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System II/h (JHMCS II/h), the helmets allow pilots to aim sensors and weapons wherever they are looking. Head-tracking technology determines which direction the pilot is eyeing, while a display is also projected onto the helmet’s visor.

Boeing says the system is produced by Vision Systems Intl., www.vsi-hmcs.com, and it will be a useful addition to the multirole jet fighter aircraft. The company also says the next-generation helmets include electronics enhancements that allow all processing to be done within the helmet. This cuts down on aircraft-mounted equipment, which is helpful for trimming costs.


Recently, pilots conducted a test flight in St. Louis to demonstrate the system and collect baseline data for the head-tracking technology.

Connected headgear is also making its way into ground combat. The U.S. Army uses helmet sensors to record and track head injuries during a combat-related blast or explosion. BAE Systems, www.baesystems.com, provides HEADS (Headborne Energy Analysis and Diagnostic Systems) sensors to the Army, and the company says it will supply thousands of additional sensors during the next year or so.

HEADS sensors are positioned beneath the crown suspension pad on combat helmets, and they allow the Army and medical workers to measure and collect data on head injuries. Some of the parameters measured include impact duration, blast pressures, ambient temperature, angular and linear accelerations, as well as the exact times of single or multiple blast events.

In addition to identifying which soldiers may need medical assistance, the data collected will be used to develop better protective gear. When creating the second generation of HEADS sensors (HEADS Generation II) BAE added wireless communications technology that can be used to download data on recorded events.

Whether military personnel are piloting a jet fighter, or walking down a street, connected helmet technology is making their jobs easier and protecting lives in the process.





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