UK MoD launches new robot to test protective equipment


Porton man

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has unveiled a new robotic mannequin to test protective suits and equipment for the armed forces.

Designed and built by Buckinghamshire-based i-bodi Technology using advanced lightweight materials developed for Formula One racing cars, the £1.1m robot can walk, march, run, sit, kneel and lift its arms to sight a weapon like an infantry soldier.

It is named 'Porton Man' after Porton Down in Wiltshire, the home of the MoD's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the original site of the UK's chemical weapons research initiatives.

Porton Man has more than a hundred sensors all over its body to 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.

i-bodi Technology chief executive officer Jez Gibson-Harris said that the company aimed to manufacture an easy to handle and lightweight robotic mannequin that had a wide range of movement.

"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," Harris said.

"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."

"Porton Man has more than a hundred sensors all over its body to record data during tests."

UK Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Minister Philip Dunne said that the robot is enabling the country to lead the way in the testing of equipment.

"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," Dunne said.

Dstl is said to be the only laboratory in the world that can use chemical warfare agents to validate the effectiveness of complete clothing systems such as the chemical, biological and radiological suits used by the UK military.


Image: Porton Man has over 100 sensors that enable scientists to carry out real-time analysis. Photo: Crown copyright.

Defence Technology