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Armed forces will benefit from £1.1m robot

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He can walk, march, run, sit, kneel, and mimic the movements of a soldier sighting a weapon.

And members of the armed forces in the area will now benefit from a £1.1m new robotic mannequin that will be used by the Ministry of Defence to test protective suits and equipment.

The robot, named the Porton Man, has sensors all over its body to record data during tests, enabling scientists to carry out analysis on equipment such as chemical and biological suits.

Mannequins have been used for this in the past, but this animatronic version, is unique to the UK.

Jaime Cummins, of Dstl’s Chemical and Biological Physical Protection group, said ‘Significant advances in animatronics, material design and sensing technologies have all been incorporated into this new Porton Man mannequin.

‘As a result, we will be able to assess and characterise protective clothing in ways which were not previously possible.

‘It’s a better, more realistic test system, and we are now in a better position and better place to design and develop the next generation of protective suit equipment.’

While the previous version’s head was attached to the frame it sits in, this one has a movable head that can test the effect it has on the equipment being worn, as well as removable thumbs to make it easier to put gloves on, and ankles that flex.

The new version also sits on a rotating turntable so it can not only be tested in windy environments created by fans, but scientists can see what happens when that wind is coming from different directions.

The latest Porton Man also comes with software that allows scientists to programme a range of movement to fit with certain scenarios, and help test what equipment would be like dealing with real situations in the field.

In a £1.1 million project, the new Porton Man was made by i-bodi Technology, which has designed and made mannequins before, but draws on experience of making animatronics and robotics for films and television.

Chief executive Jez Gibson-Harris said they were tasked with producing a lightweight robotic mannequin based on data collected from 2,500 soldiers, that was easy to handle, had a wide range of movement.

He said: ‘Of course there were a number of challenges associated with this and one way we looked to tackle these challenges was through the use of Formula One technology.

‘Using the same concepts as those used in racing cars, we were able to produce very light but highly durable carbon composite body parts for the mannequin.’

Minister for defence equipment, support and technology Philip Dunne said: ‘This technology, designed by a British company, is enabling the UK to lead the way in this important testing.

‘Increased investment in science and technology by the MoD (Ministry of Defence) is not only enabling battle-winning and lifesaving equipment to be developed but also helping innovative companies like i-bodi Technology to develop cutting edge capability.’

 

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