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University team in study to aid IAF women pilots

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Setting standards: S. Balasubramanian, principal investigator of the project. —
Setting standards: S. Balasubramanian, principal investigator of the project. —

Amutha Kannan

COIMBATORE: A major project at Bharathiar University here involving the identification of anthropometric indicators that will be used to design equipment for women pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF), is in the final stages. The university’s Centre for Life Sciences is developing the indicators as part of a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) project.

“A national standard for women in the recruiting age is not available in India. A database for men is available. The British standard is still being followed for women. Hence, the IAF has entrusted the DRDO with the job of providing a national standard for women. The DRDO has given us the project as an outcome of the Memorandum of Understanding. This is a pilot project. We have a total of 27 ongoing projects,” says S. Balasubramanian, principal investigator of the project at the university.

The mammoth project, launched in 1998, has involved recording anthropometric parameters of young women in the 18-24 age group, graduates and post-graduates, from different societal groups.

Four research students were allotted to each State. All the States in South, Central and North India have been covered. About 24,000 women were interviewed and their measurements taken. West Bengal, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir remain to be covered.

A common national standard will be derived from the results. “The use of non-Indian anthropometric data in Indian designs and other imported readymade designs often result in mismatches with the requirements of Indian users. Serious mistakes, including accidents, occur if any design dimension does not exactly match the body dimension of specific groups,” says Dr. Balasubramanian.

The overall national average will be handed over to the DRDO, which will send it to the IAF. “This can be applied to fix the physical standard for the selection of women pilots, design their clothing, workstation, personal protective equipment, face mask, gloves, and also a compatible cockpit,” says W. Selvamurthy, Chief Controller, Research and Life Sciences Development, DRDO.

The Centre will finalise the national standard by 2008.

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