Expert Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

There is an ongoing need to test and ensure effectiveness of personal protective equipment that soldiers use to protect themselves against chemical warfare agents. However, testing using human subjects presents major challenges and current human-size thermal mannequins have limited testing capabilities. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) along with their counterparts from other countries are seeking to develop more human like mannequins, which would include features like human motion, in order to carry out more advanced chemical testing. At the request of DOD Product Director, Test Equipment, Strategy and Support, the National Research Council formed an ad hoc committee to evaluate the feasibility of developing an advanced humanoid robot, or Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin (PETMAN) system that meets the DOD requirements. The report concludes that although most of the individual requirements can technically be met, fulfilling all of the requirements is currently not possible. Based on this conclusion the committee recommends that DOD considers three issues, prioritization of current system requirements, use qualified contractor for particular technical aspects, incorporate complementary testing approaches to the PETMAN system.

Key Messages

  • Integrating all the current objective requirements will be a major challenge for design and implementation of a full PETMAN system.
  • Meeting the threshold requirement of a tethered system, which would reduce the number of subsystems housed in the mannequin, is feasible. However, design challenges still exist for incorporating all necessary systems into a single PETMAN.
  • Several options are available for chemical-agent sensing, robotic actuation, and overall system design.
  • Some of the technologies reviewed in this report such as real-time sensing of chemicals, temperature, and humidity could be used in the MIST to provide real-time leak detection and characterization of the microenvironments in the protective garments.
  • Using currently available technologies, it may be possible to meet some of the threshold requirements in a nontethered system, but largely due to available battery technology such a system would be limited to an operating time of two hours. The other threshold and objective requirements may be difficult or impossible to meet with a nontethered mannequin.
  • Taken independently, most of the PETMAN threshold requirements can be met with current technologies or incremental developments of existing technologies.
  • systems integration.
  • temperature, heart rate, cardiographic characteristics, and humidity without the need for a tether.