Case study

Cutting-edge, animatronic mannequin to test military equipment

Dstl uses a new robotic mannequin to test chemical and biological protective suits and equipment for the UK's armed forces.

Dstl mannequin for testing equipment
'Porton Man' - Dstl's mannequin for testing equipment

In 2014, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) took delivery of a new robotic mannequin to be used to test chemical and biological protective suits and equipment for the UK’s armed forces.

The ‘Porton Man’, as the mannequin is named, uses state-of-the-art technology and is able to walk, march, run, sit, kneel and even lift its arms as if to sight a weapon just like an infantry soldier. It means new equipment, such as chemical and biological suits, can be thoroughly tested in a realistic but secure environment. More than a hundred sensors all over the body are able to record data during tests and scientists are even able to carry out real-time analysis.

Watch ‘Porton Man’ in action.

Mannequins have been used by Dstl in the past but this animatronic version is a unique capability that puts the UK at the forefront of testing. Designed by i-bodi Technology Ltd, based in Buckingham, the robot is built to accurately represent the military user.

Dstl in Porton Down, Wiltshire is the only place in the world that that can use chemical warfare agents to assess the effectiveness of complete clothing systems. Previous test results helped influence the final design of the chemical, biological and radiological suits used by UK armed forces and the updated technology in the new mannequin will help design the next generation of protection.

Significant advances in animatronics, material design and sensing technologies have all been incorporated into this new Porton Man mannequin. As a result, Dstl will be able to assess and characterise protective clothing in ways which were not previously possible. We are immensely proud to have this mannequin as part of our capability to protect against the threat posed by chemical and biological agents.

Jez Gibson-Harris, Chief Executive Officer, i-bodi Technology said:

“Our brief was to produce a light-weight robotic mannequin that had a wide range of movement, fitted the anthropometric data and was easy to handle. 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. 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.”

Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Philip Dunne, said:

“This technology, designed by a British company is enabling the UK to lead the way in this important testing. Increased investment in science and technology by the Ministry of Defence (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.”

Find out more about the story behind Porton Man.

Published 1 July 2014