Introduction: Wearable accelerometers have become ubiquitous in the fields of exercise physiology and ambulatory hospital settings. However, these devices have yet to be validated in extreme operational environments. The objective of this study was to correlate the gravitational forces (G forces) detected by wearable accelerometers with the G forces detected by high performance aircraft.
Methods: We compared the in-flight G forces detected by the two commercially available portable accelerometers to the F/A-18 Carrier Aircraft Inertial Navigation System (CAINS-2) during 20 flights performed by the Navy's Flight Demonstration Squadron (Blue Angels). Postflight questionnaires were also used to assess the perception of distractibility during flight.
Results: Of the 20 flights analyzed, 10 complete in-flight comparisons were made, accounting for 25,700 s of correlation between the CAINS-2 and the two tested accelerometers. Both accelerometers had strong correlations with that of the F/A-18 Gz axis, averaging r = 0.92 and r = 0.93, respectively, over 10 flights. Comparison of both portable accelerometer's average vector magnitude to each other yielded an average correlation of r = 0.93. Both accelerometers were found to be minimally distracting.
Discussion: These results suggest the use of wearable accelerometers is a valid means of detecting G forces during high performance aircraft flight. Future studies using this surrogate method of detecting accelerative forces combined with physiological information may yield valuable in-flight normative data that heretofore has been technically difficult to obtain and hence holds the promise of opening the door for a new golden age of aeromedical research.