This New Device Helps Fighter Pilots Pee at 30,000 Feet

Bathroom breaks in fighter jets just got a whole lot easier.

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Fighter and other tactical aircraft pilots are getting a new device that will make urinating and flying a lot easier a task. The Aircrew Mission Extender Device, now being fielded by the U.S. Air Force, replaces the previous method of peeing into a bag—an awkward experience at best—with a wearable device that detects urine and flushes it into a bag for storage.

The call of nature has been a problem for pilots ever since the early days of flight. The original method was simply to hold one’s pee, which can be extremely uncomfortable and distracting. Another is avoiding drinking water before and during a flight—a method which can cause headaches and stress and lowers the body’s tolerance to high g-forces.

Many older planes included a “relief tube” for pilots, which then flushed the urine outside of an aircraft. Peeing into a tube doesn’t work for everyone for some obvious physical reasons, so today’s fighter pilots urinate into “piddle packs," plastic packs that convert urine into a gel for disposal, but the method involves partially undressing while sitting strapped in a tiny cockpit and flying a multimillion-dollar jet. It's as awkward as it sounds.

The Air Force’s new Aircrew Mission Extender Device—or AMXDmax for short—could finally be the solution to the pee problem. Unlike the old system, AMXDmax doesn’t involve undressing in the cockpit. The device looks like a black pair of tight-fitting boxer shorts concealing either a cup or a pad., “The new devices are hands-free, battery operated and worn underneath uniforms.”

Once the AMXDmax automatically detects urine, it pumps it into a collection bag. Because urine is nasty, sensors detect the urine within a second and rapidly pump it into a 1.7 quart (6.8 cups) collection bag. The pilot doesn’t do anything other than release their bladder.

The Air Force has fielded 600 devices so far, with another 1,500 on order.

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