Providing security for VIPs-ranging from government officials
to movie stars-when they appear in public areas, typically means deploying protective
barriers such as concrete walls or Plexiglas shields.
A new product now entering the marketplace aims to replace those obstructive
protection devices. Its manufacturers claim that this technology can do what
only Superman could: detect incoming bullets and stop them within fractions
of a second. This protective device-a 1-foot tall, 3-foot wide rectangular box-deploys
an inflated 6-foot by 5-foot bullet-proof shield when it senses that a round
has been fired from a distance of at least 40 feet. Essentially, it operates
like an automobile air bag.
The device is called the Instantaneous Personnel Protection System (IPPS) and
is made by Ibis Technologies, a three-year- old company based in Gibsonia, Pa.
"Most people can't believe that you can set something down on the floor
and shoot at it, and the thing pops up and stops the bullet," said John
D. Weaver, one of the company's partners who own the patent for IPPS.
The system was tested late last year and is now ready for production, even
though company officials have not yet determined how much they will charge for
IPPS. "We are still putting the final production prices together,"
Ibis is marketing the product in Europe and the Middle East. In the United
States, there is potential for sales to law enforcement and military agencies
involved in counter-terrorism, he noted. There will be government-unique and
commercial configurations of IPPS.
The device is composed of five subsystems, explained Weaver during a recent
- A specially configured millimeter radar, which detects the incoming round and
sends a signal to deploy the ballistic shield. Its detection range is about
150 feet. The radar was developed by Southwest Research Institute, of San Antonio,
- The shield deployment system, which includes high-speed generators of inflation
gas to launch and sustain IPPS, and inflatable tubes that support the shield.
These components are made by Pacific Scientific, of Chandler, Ariz.
- The flexible armor that makes up the ballistic shield. It is supplied by Second
Chance Body Armor, located in Central Lake, Mich. The ballistic fabric is called
Ziloflex, which is a generation more advanced than Kevlar, said Weaver.
- The base, in the form of a rectangular box.
- A power backup system.
In order to ensure that IPPS works, it must be placed securely on the floor,
to keep it from flying off when it deploys. That means it needs a base floor
that can take at least 600 pounds of weight in one place, said Weaver. The system,
fully installed, weighs nearly 400 pounds.
The baseline design of IPPS protects against 9mm rounds. "We haven't done
a lot of different rounds. That is something we would like to pursue further,"
said Weaver. The ballistic shield was tested against weapons such as the .375
magnum pistol, 12-gauge shotgun, .44 magnum pistol, M5P submachine gun and .45
caliber submachine gun.
One of the most daunting challenges in developing IPPS, said Weaver, was determining
potential sources of electronic signals that could set off the system accidentally.
"We were particularly concerned about sources of electronic pulses [such
as] cellular phones, aircraft radar, things in the atmosphere that might unintentionally
set it off." Program researchers realized there were no reliable sources
of data to find, for example, the various kinds of electronic pulses one might
encounter in Washington, D.C.
Within the next year, Weaver said, the company plans to expand the technology
into other applications. One area of potential growth is vehicle protection.
The technology in IPPS, he said, could be used to develop "instantaneous
standoff armor" for small military vehicles. The system would detect incoming
rounds and provide small vehicles with the advantages of standoff armor that
currently is found in large combat platforms.
IPPS also could be adapted to protect windows-in vehicles and buildings-that
currently are made of costly armored glass. "This might provide an alternative,
rapidly deployed metal that would go over transparent armor," said Weaver.
The upshot would be long-term cost savings because the windows would have the
additional protection, so they could be made with a less-expensive armored glass.
In desert-like areas such as the Middle East, he explained, the cost of maintaining
facilities with armored glass windows is high because the glass gets scuffed
by sand and other elements. "You can go with a less expensive material,
and you can provide protection with IPPS only when you need it."