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Meet the £1m Porton Man - a futuristic robot testing chemical suits for soldiers

The Ministry of Defence has invested £1.1m in a new robot mannequin called Porton Man Photo: Defence Science and Technology Laboratory

The Ministry of Defence has invested £1.1m in a new animatronic mannequin that will help test the next generation of chemical and biological protective suits for the UK's armed forces.

It is named Porton Man after the Defence Scienceand Technology Laboratory, based in Porton Down, Wiltshire, where it was made and where clothing systems worn by soldiers are tested against chemical warfare agents.

Porton Man mimics the movement of a soldier sighting a weapon Credit: Defence Science and Technology Laboratory

Made using Formula 1 technology, the Porton Man can walk, march, run, sit, kneel and mimic the movement of a soldier sighting a weapon.

It will allow scientists to test the suits designed to protect UK personnel from chemical and biological attacks such as nerve agents like Sarin.

The Ministry of Defence has invested £1.1m in a new state-of-the-art robotic mannequin Credit: Defence Science and Technology Laboratory

Unlike mannequins used by Dstl in the past, Porton Man is able to move its head, has removable thumbs to make it easier to put gloves on, ankles that flex and has sensors all over its body that allow scientists to carry out real-time analysis while it is being tested.

Jaime Cummins, of Dstl's Chemical and Biological Physical Protection group, said the new Porton Man weighs 14kg (30lb) instead of the 80kg (176lb) of its predecessor - and is easier to move in and out of its test chamber.

Mr Cummins said: "Significant advances in animatronics, material design and sensing technologies have all been incorporated into this new Porton Man mannequin.

"As a result, we will be able to assess and characterise protective clothing in ways which were not previously possibly.The new mannequin is hoped to help work on producing a new, lighter-weight protective suit for the future."

The new version also sits on a rotating turntable so it can not only be tested in windy environments created by fans, but scientists can see what happens when that wind is coming from different directions.

The latest Porton Man also comes with software that allows scientists to programme a range of movement to fit with certain scenarios, and help test what equipment would be like dealing with real situations in the field.

The Ministry of Defence has invested £1.1m in a new state-of-the-art robotic mannequin Credit: Defence Science and Technology Laboratory

Mr Cummins added: "It's a better, more realistic test system, and we are now in a better position and better place to design and develop the next generation of CB (chemical and biological) protective suit equipment."

The Porton Man was made by Buckingham-based company i-bodi Technology, which has drawn on experience of making animatronics and robotics for films and television and used data collected from 2,500 soldiers

Chief executive Jez Gibson-Harris said: "Of course there were a number of challenges associated with this and one way we looked to tackle these challenges was through the use of Formula One technology.

"Using the same concepts as those used in racing cars, we were able to produce very light but highly durable carbon composite body parts for the mannequin."

Porton Man is able to move its head, has removable thumbs and ankles that flex Credit: Defence Science and Technology Laboratory

Minister for defence equipment, support and technology Philip Dunne said: "This technology, designed by a British company, is enabling the UK to lead the way in this important testing.

"Increased investment in science and technology by the MoD (Ministry of Defence) is not only enabling battle-winning and lifesaving equipment to be developed but also helping innovative companies like i-bodi Technology to develop cutting edge capability."