The Ministry of Defence has invested £1.1m in a new state-of-the-art robotic mannequin that will test protective suits and equipment for the UK’s armed forces.
The ‘Porton Man’, named after the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), based in Porton Down in Wiltshire, is able to walk, march, run, sit, kneel and can even lift its arms to sight a weapon like an infantry soldier. More than a hundred sensors all over the body record data during tests, enabling scientists to carry out real-time analysis on equipment such as chemical and biological suits in a realistic but secure environment.
Mannequins have been used by Dstl in the past, but this animatronic version, which is designed and built by a British company, is unique to the UK. Dstl is also the only laboratory in the world that can use chemical warfare agents to assess the effectiveness of complete clothing systems such as the chemical, biological and radiological suits used by UK armed forces.
Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Philip Dunne MP 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 is not only enabling battle winning and life saving equipment to be developed but also helping innovative companies like i-bodi Technology to develop cutting edge capability."
CEO Jez Gibson-Harris of i-bodi Technology, who designed the mannequin, said:
"Our brief was to produce a lightweight robotic mannequin that had a wide range of movement and was easy to handle. 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."