The Air Force is testing a new system designed to provide in-flight bladder relief to female pilots.
Designed by Airion Health, the system involves a cup attached to the body, which collects urine and flushes it out towards a collection bag.
“You wear that under the underwear that comes out of the flight suit, which then connects to our pump system and controller that will pump the liquid out and away from the body into a collection bag,” according to an Air Force statement out of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.
“With the new system the Air Force is testing, the goal is for aircrew to be able to relieve themselves without unstrapping.”
In the past, systems, including the infamous “piddle pack,” have been designed to accommodate male pilots. Women were limited to diapers or a bag system. The lack of a decent alternative has led to pilots refraining from urinating for dangerously long periods or willfully enduring dehydration to avoid the inconvenience associated with these methods, according to the Air Force.
“Some aircrew have been found to practice ‘tactical dehydration,’” the statement noted. “This method can cause fatal errors and health issues, such as lowering the aircrews’ ability to withstand high g-forces by 50% and increase headaches.”
The 46th Test Squadron and 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron, based at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, have been carrying out the development and test support for the project. Justin Spurling, the 46th TS flight equipment test engineer, said the Air Force brought in female experts to ensure the feasibility of the system.
That process previously could take up to 45 minutes, the Air Force stated.
“When you think aircrew, your first thought may not be about in-flight bladder relief, but it can pose major health and safety issues for pilots,” the statement noted.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.