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Here's what happens when the Air Force's computer nerds hang out with pararescuemen

Could you keep up with an Air Force pararescueman? Some researchers with the Air Force did just that, joining the famed PJs on a deployment.


The result was an app that turned a smart phone into something a lot like a tricorder from Star Trek.

The Battlefield Assisted Trauma Distributed Observation Kit is a smartphone app that when combined with commercial, off-the-shelf sensors, enables a PJ to monitor the health and vital signs of multiple patients, even when deployed and facing hostile forces.

A pararescueman from the 38th Rescue Squadron simulates giving Staff Sgt. Nicholas Mahan, 337th Air Control Squadron weapons technician, an IV during a rapid-rescue exercise, Nov. 2, 2016, in Marianna, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

"We physically left the lab, got into the field with the operators, and observed firsthand the challenges and deficiencies they face," said Dr. Gregory Burnett, who managed the BATDOK program. "And when I say into the field, I mean we literally rode in the helicopters into hot landing zones, and observed medical Airmen stabilize and package up patients for transport and load them back on the helicopter."

The result? By observing with the operators, and working with them – no feature was added to BATDOK without a request from the operators – the team was able to avoid what the release called "unforeseen downsides to new technology." Instead, the researchers and the operators were able to integrate BATDOK into the suite of tactical gear.

The BATDOK app can deliver real-time health status for multiple patients, can keep medical records at a PJ's fingertips and can house first-aid information and location data all in one place, engineers say.

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos

"BATDOK was designed to not add any additional burden to battlefield Airmen's tactical ensemble," Burnett added. "From the beginning, we are designing to enhance capabilities, while aiding their survivability and lethality."

While PJs and many combat troops deploy with heavy loads, it looks like many won't mind having this new piece of gear along for the ride.