By William Welsh
The Air Force Research Laboratory is working with industry to develop a device that can remotely determine a warfighter’s health status under combat duress with sensors that can be either worn or digested, reports Elizabeth Long with the Air Force’s 711th Human Performance Wing.
AFRL is working with QinetiQ North America’s Technology Solution Group to refine the Battlefield Automatic Life Status Monitor (BALSM). The device allows pararescue personnel or medics in a different location to monitor the physiologic life status of warfighters for triage or rescue purposes. It also produces a health status history over time for each warfighter being monitored.
The primary sensor, designed to be worn against the forehead in a headband or helmet, is a wireless pulse oximetry unit that measures the amount of oxygen in the blood and estimates heart rate and respiration.
A secondary sensor is ingested into the body via a wireless capsule to measure core body temperature. The information collected is transmitted through radio receiver and monitoring software to a computer.
The pulse oximetry sensor emits both visible and infrared light that reflects off the skull to obtain the pulse. Normally pulse oximetry is read through the finger, but researchers wanted to use a different location on the body that would not interfere with the use of hands or arms.
What’s more, the pulse oximetry sensor contains an accelerometer that can determine whether a person is standing, sitting, lying down or moving. This enables pararescue personnel to determine whether the heart rate and respiration rate are normal for the level of physical activity the warfighter is undertaking.
The 711th Human Performance Wing within AFRL’s Human Effectiveness Directorate is coordinating the effort.