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NASA Kevlar Deployable Energy Absorber

NASA Kevlar Deployable Energy Absorber

NASA's Deployable Energy Absorber could save lives in an aircraft crash...

NASA has begun testing an expandable Kevlar honeycomb cushion able to withstand the impact force of a helicopter crash. Researchers hope the technology may one-day be applied to all types of aircraft.

Created by engineer Sotiris Kellas at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Viginia, the ‘Deployable Energy Absorber’ comprises of a highly absorbent honeycomb Kevlar bag mounted on a unique flexible hinge. The hinge allows the cushion to be deployed as needed, much like an airbag (the video clip only shows the cushion fully deployed).

Deployable Energey Absorber

NASA's Deployable Energey Absorber

NASA’s Karen Jackson explained:

I’d like to think the research we’re doing is going to end up in airframes and will potentially save lives. We crash-tested the helicopter by suspending it about 35 feet (10.7 m) into the air using cables. Then, as it swung to the ground, we used pyrotechnics to remove the cables just before the helicopter hit so that it reacted like it would in a real accident.

In the test, NASA used an MD-500 helicopter, donated by the U.S. Army, equipped with instruments that collected 160 channels of data. Onboard the MD-500 NASA positioned 4 crash test dummies, donated by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., one of which was equipped with simulated organs.

The test was designed to imitate a “relatively severe helicopter crash” with a flight path angle of about 33 degrees and the combined forward and vertical speeds of 48 feet per second (33 miles per hour, 14.6 meters per second, or 53.1 kph).

Researchers still need to analyze data from the crash test dummies, but first inspections looking promising.

In the video you can see the helicopter’s skid landing gear bent outward, but the cushion attached to its belly kept the rotorcraft’s bottom from touching the ground.

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