News | Jul 24, 2018

Simulated helicopter crash highlights military research on lifesaving devices

McDonald Army Health Center emergency services personnel prepare to load a patient onto an ambulance during an aircraft crash exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, July 17, 2018. Although JBLE hopes to never have to use emergency response procedures, exercises like this are necessary to ensure personnel are prepared to provide optimal care to patients during a real-world incident.

Areca Bell/Air Force

LANGLEY, Va. – First responders from Joint Base Langley-Eustis last week pretended that a U.S. Army helicopter crashed into a boat docked near this bayside airfield.

In the name of interagency preparation, emergency crews hosed water onto the crash scene, attended to 11 actors playing the dead and injured, and mopped up hazardous materials spilled into the water.

“This type of exercise allows the wing inspection team to evaluate the plans, processes, and training each unit has conducted. Additionally, it can bring to light a unit’s resource limitations,” said Randy Renaud, 633rd Air Base Wing Inspector General’s inspections exercise program manager.

Scientists and engineers working in Department of Defense laboratories have long sought to prevent or lessen the damage such crashes cause. Much of their work is available to businesses for turning into new products and services with dual-use, civil applications.

At the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing, researcher Michelle Bryce developed a way to get birds to avoid aircraft with a millimeter-wave electromagnetic device. The non-lethal anti-bird strike technology has been laboratory tested and operates in a fixed beam, a sweeping pattern, or a tracking mode. More information is available to interested parties. The Air Force Academy has a similar technology using sound and light projection.

The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, Maryland, has invented a novel crash test seat that accurately simulates the expensive, crash-worthy seats used in aircraft. With increased data accuracy, it better informs safety engineers on improvements for pilot, crew, and passenger survivability. Testing and design companies can license the technology for $2,000.

The Army Research Laboratory invented a novel device for quickly extracting victims still wearing a seat belt inside a crashed vehicle.

A pair of engineers at the Army Research Laboratory invented a seatbelt cutting tool for fast extractions. The handheld device improves grip form and includes a pair of recessed cutting blades in a “V” configuration to entrap a belt but prevent cutting the victims. The device needs a company to make it.

Another engineer working for the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana, designed a new stretcher for transporting wounded patients. It folds up like an accordion, making it easy to store in vehicles. Innovative medical device companies can license the design for commercialization.

The intubation of burn victims can cause additional trauma to the face. That problem led Gabriel Wright and Brendan Beely of the Brooke Army Medical Center to develop a bite-block intubation device that secures the tube with reduced skin damage. Their invention is ready for licensing and commercialization.


TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary for technology transfer, is helping companies access these and other DoD inventions through patent license agreements, so they can develop the technologies into new products and services. For many small businesses, this is a low-risk opportunity to leverage government-funded research.

“And we don’t charge for our services,” said Quinton King, senior technology manager at TechLink. “When you identify an invention that you’re interested in, and there are thousands to browse, don’t hesitate to call us with your questions.”


Headshot Image of Quinton King, PhD, CLP

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