Even with rapid technological advancements in the modern warfighting environment, airmen remain the most important asset to the Air Force.
Human performance augmentation is an emerging concept based on the ability to sense and assess human health status in real-time using wearable biosensors, and enhance war fighter performance before mission safety, efficiency, and outcome is compromised.
Typical human performance monitoring is achieved by measuring physiological signatures such as heart rate, skin temperature, and blood pressure. Additionally, biological chemical/molecular information can be obtained from blood, sweat, urine, and saliva. Advances in molecular biology and biochemistry led to the discovery of small molecules, peptides, and proteins in these fluids associated with human performance.
AFRL researchers from the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate and 711th Human Performance Wing formed a multidisciplinary team to advance new technologies, mature manufacturing processes, and develop end-to-end systems to enable HPA.
Augmentation improves war fighter performance and could take a variety of forms ranging from pharmaceutical countermeasures to adaptive and autonomous systems. HPA requires new sensor devices that do not interfere with warfighter operations and can be
integrated with communication and information systems to satisfy broad mission needs.
Today’s biosensors are large and include complex supporting electronics for processing, communications, sample/fluid handling, user interfaces, and power supplies. The vision is to develop and integrate sensors into a flexible, wearable electronics platform (e.g., a flexible patch) that satisfies usability needs.
Many military systems incorporate information about the state of the equipment for mission planning/execution and asset sustainment. Including information about the state of the human provides new capability for both the operator and the military platform. For example, monitoring F-22 pilot blood oxygenation has allowed the Air Force to monitor the safety of both the pilot and the aircraft during flight.
Human Systems Integration, a parallel Air Force objective, integrates the warfighter into the surrounding weapons platform (human-machine teaming). Biosensors and HPA are enabling factors in the success of this technology.