The United States Air Force (USAF) has acquired new equipment that will allow pilots and others to detect signs of hypoxia, or oxygen (O2) deprivation.

The reduced oxygen breathing device (ROBD) is used to provide pilots with aerospace physiology refresher training. It allows for a more efficient and safer way for pilots to train in simulated environments.

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9th PSPTS personnel monitor a pilot’s vitals and cognitive abilities as he flies a simulated mission using the ROBD.

Source: US Air Force

As part of the course, pilots work with the 9th Physiological Support Squadron (PSPTS) for a number of reasons, including hypoxia demonstration.

Sgt. Jennifer Flecker, 9th PSPTS support flight chief, said, “Hypoxia is a state of O2 deficiency. When a person goes up in attitude and breathes less O2 they become susceptible to cognition errors, situational awareness errors, loss of coordination and visual impairment.”

Hypoxia poses a serious threat to pilots and up until recently, exposing pilots to the conditions which cause it required 9th PSPTS Airmen to spend a lot of time and manpower completing hypoxia demonstrations. However, with the acquisition of the ROBD it now only takes two individuals versus the six Airmen it used to take.

“It saves us a lot of manpower and time,” said Airman 1st Class Mariah Rosenberg, a 9th PSPTS aerospace physiologist technician. “A hyperbaric chamber flight takes us about an hour and a half to do the entire thing and with the ROBD it takes us about 30 minutes.”

According to Rosenberg, pilots prefer using the ROBD instead of the hyperbaric chamber because they aren’t required to wear the full pressure suit and are able to spend more time on the mission as opposed to training.

In addition to the time saved, demonstrating hypoxia with the ROBD is safer for aircrew going through the training.

Flecker continued, “The ROBD demonstrates hypoxia without exposing aircrew to altitude threats. It takes O2, nitrogen (N2), and compressed air and mixes them up to different percentage levels a person would be exposed to at various altitudes.”