Connectors for Air Force’s BATMAN and BATDOK Save Lives

By Contributed Article | January 11, 2016

Engineers seek to improve cable wiring and break-away connectors in the event of a parachute mishap while developing wearable technology to save lives on the ground.



Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) Human Effectiveness Directorate engineers are continuing to develop a family of wearable and portable technology for the Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided kNowledge (BATMAN) program.

“BATMAN seeks to maximize the battlefield airmen’s mission effectiveness through the development of advanced wearable technologies and capabilities,” says Dr. Gregory Burnett, chief engineer, 711th Human Performance Wing. “The system focuses on reducing the cognitive and physical loads through the development of modular power and body-worn data networks.”

From gloves with embedded fiber-optic flashlights to wrist-mounted communications systems, most BATMAN tech is designed to serve multiple purposes, thus lightening the load. “BATMAN leverages multiple types of cable/connectors to establish an integrated, low-profile network system capable of handling the airmen’s power/data connectivity needs on their person,” says Burnett.

Efforts are being made to decrease the weight burden, according to Burnett, “including developing dual-use cables to reduce the total amount of cables required to be worn. Additionally, connectors’ material/form factors are aggressively investigated to reduce size and weight but ensure reliable connection.”

Airmen wearing this tech typically parachute into combat environments, so the wiring and connections of their gear must be designed with a safety perspective. Engineers are working on improving cable wiring and connectors that break away without damaging components in the event of a parachute mishap. “We’ll continue to seek advanced cabling solutions that reduce weight and interconnect complexity,” Burnett adds.

On the ground, a key component of BATMAN is helping airmen save lives. With BATDOK  (Battlefield Airmen Trauma Distributed Observation Kit), pararescue jumpers (PJs) can now treat and monitor several casualties simultaneously.

Military helicopter rescue

Pararescue jumpers and combat rescue officers with the 103rd Rescue Squadron, 106th Rescue Wing, conduct mass casualty training with the Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided Knowledge System (BATMAN) at FS Gabreski ANG on August 25, 2015. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Muncy, 106th Rescue Wing)

 Wireless sensors are placed on the injured to monitor blood pressure, heart rate, and pulse, and the data are transmitted to the PJ via a wearable device – either a wrist-mounted cell phone or chest-mounted tablet. They can effectively triage and begin treating the most critically wounded patients, receiving instant alerts if any other patient’s vitals drop.

Flexible hybrid electronics

Photo courtesy of Air Force Research Laboratory

Having “eyes” on multiple patients, with vital data at their fingertips, gives PJs the ability to work efficiently, ultimately increasing survivability for wounded airmen.

“It’s all about helping humans make faster decisions,” said AFRL’s communications team lead, Derek Kaufman.

For technology used by warfighters operating in harsh environments, component failure can have critical consequences. It’s a design challenge ODU addressed by developing the ODU AMC series, an advanced and highly reliable connector solution designed especially for military and security technology.

ODU Push-Pull Connectors

ODU AMC Push-Pull and ODU AMC Break-Away connectors (Photos courtesy of ODU)

“Whether extreme environmental factors or strong mechanical stress, working properly even under the most difficult conditions is a basic requirement for all connection technology used in military applications,” says Günter Rohr, ODU global portfolio manager. “Our ODU connections ensure a fast information flow with no malfunctions or interruptions in communication systems.”

ODU continues to support the German Federal Defense Force’s Gladius “future soldier” systems and, with the experience gained from this program, offers support globally for the next generation of soldier systems. The manufacturer works closely with suppliers for communication systems and headsets. “Several new products with interfaces based on our ODU AMC solutions are on the market or releasing shortly,” says Rohr.

Similar to BATMAN, M-W-P-D (man-worn-power-and-data) is one of the projects ODU is currently exploring. “We are working together with the main contractors in the market to understand the needs as well as developments and, therefore, the right connector solutions,” says Rohr. “Night vision and navigation systems are a focus for us, too.”


terri-helusAuthor Terri Helus has more than a dozen years experience writing for publications including verticals about military and defense, safety, aviation flight testing, information technology, and veterinary specialty medicine. A former Army public affairs specialist, she honed her skills with the DoD-level, award-winning newspaper, The Citizen. She worked at major military organizations including the US Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center and the US Army Aviation Technical Test Center. She can be reached at [email protected].


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