BAE Systems won a $16.9 million contract with the U.S. Army this week to deliver thousands of helmet sensors used to record impacts during blasts or explosions. The next generation of sensors, called Headborne Energy Analysis and Diagnostic Systems (HEADS), capture and store critical information about the impact of explosive devices and blunt impacts on the soldier’s head.
Called the “Signature Wound” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is one of the most common combat wounds suffered in those war zones. Thirty percent of soldiers taken to Walter Reed Army Medical Center since 2003 suffered from TBI, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC), and 202,281 U.S. military service members were diagnosed with TBI between 2000 and 2010 according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Traumatic Brain Injury among soldiers is difficult to diagnose because it’s often not immediately apparent. Blast injuries as a result of dramatic increases in energy waves and air pressure are common and cause a soldier to be dazed and confused. Left undiagnosed and without proper time for recovery or repeated exposure to blasts, TBI can eventually lead to problems with speech, balance or motor control.
“Traumatic Brain Injuries are known as a signature injury for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Don Dutton, vice president and general manager of Protection Systems at BAE Systems. “The army has an urgent demand for technologies that help identify individuals who may be in need of medical assistance for potential head and brain injuries. The data collected by HEADS during a traumatic event can be used to develop better protective equipment and for supporting further medical treatment.”
BAE System’s HEAD records impact, change of pressure, acceleration, direction, magnitude and duration of a blast, ballistic, crash and blunt impact event.
The 2.24 ounce sensor is very thin and contoured to fit inside the crown of the helmet. It’s undetectable to the wearer. When a blast exceeds a certain threshold, the sensor begins collecting data about the event and a LED light located on the sensor is activated and begins blinking. The information collected is stored until it can be downloaded via a USB or wireless connection and analyzed by a medical professional.
BAE Systems has already delivered more than 7,600 HEADS Generation I sensors to the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. The next generation of HEADS (Generation II) will include wireless technology to download summary data of recorded events, a longer battery life and expanded pressure measurement and angular rate data.