The goal of taking physical measurements is to predict
how a test article, in this case a proxy for the warfighter,
will respond to real-world events. It begins with meticulous
laboratory and simulation testing, but ultimately requires real-world field testing to validate those findings.
The analysis of the data from these efforts will lead to new
innovations to improve warfighter safety in a multitude of ways.
The First Blast Test Dummy
The human factor always needs to be at the forefront,
and one new high-tech development is the world’s first
“warfighter” blast test dummy. A blast test dummy is a full-scale anthropomorphic test device (ATD) that simulates
the dimensions, weight, proportions, and articulation of the
human body that has been instrumented to record data
about its dynamic behavior during testing.
The current test dummies in use have been adopted from
the automotive safety industry; however, they are limited
in their usefulness as they had been designed to measure
frontal or side impacts, not the vertical forces coming from
under the vehicle and occupant in a blast event.
The U.S. Army has chosen Diversified Technical Systems
(DTS), a privately-held, California-based manufacturer
of miniature data recorders, as the prime contractor for
both the dummy and instrumentation aspects of this
important project. The result is WIAMan – the Warrior Injury
Assessment Manikin. Specifically, the WIAMan in its current
form is designed to assess the potential for skeletal injury
from underbody blasts, particularly with regards to the legs,
spine, and pelvis.
This multi-phased project for the dummy began in 2011
and is anticipated to extend through 2020, when production
for the U.S. Army is anticipated to be initiated. The
Department of Defense will be using WIAMan to conduct
live fire explosive testing and evaluation on ground vehicle
designs and associated equipment.
The biofidelic data collected from the WIAMan ATD
will assist in improving vehicle designs, seats, restraints,
padding, body armor, and tactical gear and support the
development of new concepts like interior airbags – anything
that can be used to minimize injury modes for the warfighter.
This state-of-the-art blast dummy is a major step forward,
and will have been the culmination of a significant effort and
partnership between the U.S. Army and industry.
Overcoming Space Constraints
A significant challenge to military vehicle testing is
understanding how to fit all of the test instrumentation
into the vehicle. From the outside, a vehicle such as the
Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) is a massive
beast. But inside it’s packed tightly with tactical gear and
equipment, leaving little space for the warfighters, who end
up in very close quarters side-by-side and knee-to-knee.
Traditional dummies require extensive external cabling,
sensors, data recorders, and power supplies. The reason
being is that the average dummy is instrumented with 64
to 100 channels of data collection instrumentation, but
WIAMan can have upwards of 200 channels. The general
trend toward higher channel count tests allows engineers to
get an even more robust picture of what’s happening.
It’s a combination of several factors that drives this trend.
First, more sensors are added to areas of interest. Second,
different types of sensors are added. Typically, it’s load cells
or accelerometers, but angular rate sensors may be included
to capture rotational velocity, like that seen in whiplash.
Each sensor that’s embedded inside the dummy
represents a data channel. The sensor cables are routed
outside the dummy to an external data recorder. This large
bundle of cables, or umbilical, not only adds significant
weight (50 to 60 pounds), but it can also alter test dynamics
and the precise pre-determined position of the dummy.
Testing in a world of weapons, tanks, and tactical gear takes on a new level of intensity when
“getting it right” has potentially life or
By Randy Boss, Program Manager, DTS
WIAMan is the world’s first blast test dummy designed to assess the potential for
skeletal injury from underbody blasts. All image credit: DTS and U.S. Army.