NASA Helps Halt High-Speed Pursuits

Thanks in part to NASA research, law enforcement now has better “teeth” to take a bite out of crime.

A tire deflation device (TDD) is a strip that contains embedded metal spikes. The strip is thrown over the road in front of a speeding vehicle, deflating the tires and forcing it to stop. This device lets law enforcement stop a speeding vehicle safely, often without the need of a dangerous high-speed pursuit.

The goal of the design is to keep spikes attached to the strip unless a tire runs over them. In reality, spikes that didn’t puncture the tires were often knocked loose by fleeing cars and trucks, scattering across the road and creating a potential problem for other motorists, plus a clean-up nuisance for police officers.

NASA teamed with Phoenix International, Ltd., of Brookfield, Wisconsin to develop a better engineering solution to keep the unused spikes in place while still allowing the strip to have puncture power. NASA’s Plum Brook Station’s facilities tested the MagnumSpike! tire deflation device, manufactured and marketed by Phoenix. Researchers concluded that the retention clip on the strip couldn’t reliably hold all of the spikes in place.

NASA engineers worked to improve the performance of the retention clip, and the results were passed to a Cleveland-based engineering firm as part of additional testing. Based on the analysis, NASA and the engineering firm recommended a new pin shear method, which Phoenix used to develop a new, friction-free retain-release clip.

Since then, MagnumSpike! has been field tested and proven to swiftly and safely stop everything from 18-wheelers to compact vehicles — even those with self-sealing and run-flat tires. The technology has an impressive 100-percent safety record and 100-percent take-down record in deflating all tires that have come across its path. In some cases, fleeing suspects have seen the spike strip, skidded to a halt, and simply surrendered. Now that’s crime prevention.

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