Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) are a type of fast watercraft, which are critical to the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN). RHIBs are used on every RNZN ship and allow our sailors to complete a wide range of tasks including fisheries patrols, humanitarian aid and disaster relief, ship repair tasks and search and rescue – among many other jobs. It’s not exaggerating to say that these little craft are the real workhorses of the fleet!

The negative impacts of shock and vibration on the human body have long been studied in a range of vehicles (from automobiles to airplanes), and RHIB transit is no different – placing both physical and cognitive demands on personnel, and potentially increasing the risk of injury; particularly in transits which may last a few hours or are conducted in rough weather conditions.

Scientists and engineers of the Defence Technology Agency (DTA) are conducting a study to evaluate the effects of RHIB transit on personnel, with the aim of gaining a clearer picture of how RHIB rides might negatively impact passengers, and what this means for subsequent task performance. The project draws on expertise from across the lab and involves DTA experts in human factors, physiology, biomechanics, cognitive science, platform engineering and meteorology. The primary aim of the project is to gain a better understanding of the effects of RHIB transit on personnel, to ultimately help RNZN protect its people through determining safety limits, providing exposure thresholds, and potentially informing the design of future boats and their requirements (e.g., hull shape, shock absorbing seats, etc.).

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