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Cooling Devices for Helmeted Maintainers, Flight Deck Crew, and Rotary-Wing Aircrew


RT&L FOCUS AREA(S): General Warfighting Requirements

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Biomedical; Human Systems

OBJECTIVE: Design and develop a thermoregulatory control device to be worn in conjunction with maintainer, flight deck crew, and rotary-wing aircrew helmets to prevent overheating in hot climates and support continued mission operation without degradation in human performance for up to twelve hours.

DESCRIPTION: Helmet systems have been developed to improve hearing and head protection in extremely loud environments [Refs 1-2]. Most of these helmets are unvented and some have an edge roll seal around the face and neck to improve hearing protection. Consequently, these features also create the potential for increased risk of overheating while wearing the helmet, especially in hot environments, over a 12-hour work period [Refs 3-4].

The Department of the Navy (DoN) seeks thermoregulatory control devices to be worn in conjunction with maintainer, flight deck crew, and rotary-wing aircrew helmets. The proposed technology must prevent the potential overheating of maintainers, flight deck crew, and rotary-wing aircrew for up to 12 hours [Refs 5-7]. Cooling devices may be head, neck, or body mounted and worn in, or under, the current helmet system or clothing. The technology must not interfere with mission operation, nor should it cause a decline in human performance or hearing protection over a 12-hour period. Technologies must be portable, lightweight, and should integrate with current helmets or personal protective equipment without disruptions to the edge roll or shell of the helmet, which would degrade current levels of hearing protection. In addition, added weight on the head should not significantly change the center of mass so as to lead to discomfort or decreased performance, nor should the technology force the head into a forward pitch position. The desired system may include, but is not limited to, passive and active, evaporative, conductive, or convective cooling. The technology should have minimal components and no risk of accidental detachment during mission operations. The cooling must not introduce health or safety risks to the warfighter or the environment. Both a one-size-fits-all approach, as well as, specific solutions for each application will be considered.

Although not required, it is highly recommended to work in coordination with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to ensure proper design and to facilitate transition of the final technology [Refs 1-2].

NAVAIR will provide Phase I performers with the appropriate guidance required for human research protocols so that they have the information to use while preparing their Phase II Initial Proposal. Institutional Review Board (IRB) determination as well as processing, submission, and review of all paperwork required for human subject use can be a lengthy process. As such, no human research will be allowed until Phase II and work will not be authorized until approval has been obtained, typically as an option to be exercised during Phase II.

PHASE I: Develop approaches to an innovative cooling solution that does not compromise hearing or head protection. Demonstrate proof of concept through test fixture testing and modeling. The Phase I effort will include prototype plans to be developed under Phase II.

Note: Please refer to the statement included in the Description above regarding human research protocol for Phase II.

PHASE II: Develop and produce a prototype thermoregulatory device based on the design developed in Phase I. Perform subject testing to evaluate performance in work-representative scenarios. Develop life-cycle costs and supportability estimates.

Note: Please refer to the statement included in the Description above regarding human research protocol for Phase II.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Develop an optimized solution, finalize testing efforts, and assist in transitioning the technology to the fleet. Provide the Navy with all mechanical and electrical drawings associated with production representative solutions.

Developed technology could be used commercially in the utilities sector, sports industry, or any instance in which helmeted personnel require cooling solutions to maintain a sustained activity level.


  1. Navy SBIR (2004.3). Advanced Helmet for Maintainer Head and Hearing Protection.  
  2. “Gentex Aircrew Rotary Wing Helmet Systems.” Gentex Corporation (2020, June 12).  
  3. Rodahl K., Guthe T. and Morrison, J.B. (ed). “Physiological limitations of human performance in hot environments, with particular reference to work in heat-exposed industry.” Taylor & Francis, Environmental Ergonomics—Sustaining Human Performance in Harsh Environments, 37, February 1, 1988,, pp. 22-69. ISBN-10: 0850664004.  
  4. Tharion, W.J.; Goetz, V. and Yokota, M. “Estimated metabolic heat production of helicopter aircrew members during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.” No. T12-03. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Natick, MA, January 2012.  
  5. “Chapter 3: Prevention of heat and cold stress injuries (ashore, afloat, and ground forces).” Manual of Naval Preventive Medicine (NAVMED P-5010-3).”, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Washington, DC, February 12, 2009.  
  6. “Chapter B2: Heat stress.” Navy Safety and Occupational Health Program Manual for Forces Afloat. (OPNAVINST 5100.19F). Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, May 5, 2019.  
  7. “Chapter 8: Thermal Stress Program.” Safety and Environmental Health Manual. (COMDTINST M5100.47), February 27, 2019.
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