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Home : Media : News
NEWS | July 6, 2023

NSWC PCD and Brown University sign CRADA to protect high speed craft operators

By Jeremy Roman, NSWC PCD Public Affairs

Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) and Brown University have recently entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) aimed to develop technology solutions to protect high speed craft (HSC) operators from injurious environmental conditions, specifically the repeated mechanical shock a body endures when quickly navigating open water. 

The research under the CRADA was sponsored by Office of Naval Research (ONR) Code 34 Warfighter Protection and ONR Global Experimentation and Analysis (ONRG E&A). The agreement is entitled the “Development of Improved Sensor Systems and Algorithms Optimal for use in Brain and Spine Injury Research associated with the HSC Environment” and outlines what facilities, technology and data may be shared; ownership of resulting innovative technologies; and processes for publishing new findings. It also reinforces the collaborative relationship between researchers, scientist and engineers from NSWC PCD and Brown University to combine capabilities towards goal-achieving discovery and technological advancement in protection. Eric Pierce, NSWC PCD Test and Evaluation & Prototype Fabrication Division senior test director and Human Factors engineer, explained what the Navy Lab brings to the table and why these partnerships are important.

“NSWC PCD has extensive expertise, capabilities and information in Special Warfare Maritime Mobility Mission Systems, Mission Support Equipment, Human Factors Engineering, Impact Injury Research and Development of Human Worn Instrumentation,” said Pierce. “Teaming with Brown University [will offer] answers to the problems that we are seeking in terms of protection from mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) and better human-worn instrumentation to characterize these problems and provide some form of eventual dosimetry and impact injury tracking over the years of a career.”

As an educational and research university, Brown’s efforts aim to discover fundamental knowledge and train the next generation of scientists to solve real-world problems. As part of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) sponsored PANTHER (Physics-bAsed Neutralization of Threats to Human tissuEs and oRgans) and TIGER (Towards Injury prediction using G-sensor-based strain Estimation and motion Reproduction) programs, a team of scientists from Brown University have developed two wearable inertial measurement systems, the Accelo-Hat and Accelo-Harness. Collectively known as the Accelo-Suit, these systems were designed to fasten inertial measurement units (IMUs) at several locations distributed across the human body so that the IMUs may measure kinematics data (namely, linear acceleration and rotational velocity) at those points. Dr. Haneesh Kesari, Associate Professor of Engineering from the solid mechanics division at Brown University, provided some insight on the collaboration’s impact and trajectory.

“The human brain itself does not have pain sensors…so if a person gets injured through some of the very strenuous training conditions and military exercises, there is no direct way to know that they are getting injured until far after the fact. Even with the performance of computer simulations and calculations, they are not directly applicable because there are numerous assumptions and information we don’t have with [just] a computer model,” said Kesari. “So this experiment is very valuable because it ties together two very disparate fields of expertise and knowledge. One is the know-how of 20 years of high speed craft biodynamics research experience that Mr. Pierce brings and the other is the most state-of-the-art algorithms, computer software, math and physics being developed. When merging these together, we’ll be able to figure out from a rational and rigorous mathematical sense of how to quantify injury and thus be able to have a more predictive and rationally designed preventative measure.”     

In Fiscal Year 2023, NSWC PCD and researchers from Brown, with biomechanics expertise from Cameron R. Bass LLC, collaborated to assess the suitability and effectiveness of the Accelo-Suit under simulated at sea conditions. Future tests may continue to utilize the Moog 6DOF motion simulator located in the NSWC PCD Human Systems Integration Team’s Biodynamics Laboratory.

“One of NSWC PCD’s missions is to conduct research, development, test and evaluation [RDT&E] for Naval Special Warfare [NSW] Systems,” said Pierce. “Ensuring NSW warfighter dominance includes addressing the collective desire of NSW to strategically maximize human capital, sharpen battlefield performance, and extend the operational service life of the warfighter.” 

These CRADAs serve as excellent opportunities to help organizations achieve their respective goals collectively. They can allow private industry to license federal technologies, demonstrate good stewardship of taxpayer money, and increase development of commercial technologies, which supports the national defense and economy. The benefits can also include increased efficiency, more rapid solutions, lead to future partnerships and provide academia with opportunities to expose their students to impactful on-site training.

“Having strong partnerships with academia using technology transfer agreements allows us to be more agile in our research and development. This translates to direct mission support and warfighting dominance,” said Paige George, NSWC PCD Technology Transfer manager.

This isn’t the first time the Navy Lab and Brown have collaborated together. In FY22, they conducted a Human Subjects Research (HSR) study determining the efficacy of exoskeleton leg braces in mitigating potentially injurious repeated mechanical shock aboard HSC. 

“NSWC PCD and Brown University have already begun a strong working relationship. It is my sincere hope that this CRADA will further strengthen that relationship and ensure continued collaborative efforts intended to protect and improve warfighter performance,” said Pierce.