Determining Rugged Reliability in Extreme Weather Environments

Few mission-critical workers can put their work on hold due to a rainstorm or other weather conditions. From first responders to utility workers, these mobile professionals need reliable technology that can work wherever their job takes them. When evaluating rugged devices that may experience a variety of extreme weather conditions, decision makers should pay close attention to Mil-Spec testing for rain, humidity and sand and dust resistance.

  • Blowing Rain Test: MIL-STD-810G Method 506.5 Procedure I  To simulate using a device in wet windy weather the DoD created the “Blowing Rain Test: MIL-STD-810G Method 506.5 Procedure I” where a device is blasted with 5.8 inch-per-hour rain and 70 mph winds, for 30 minutes per surface while operational. If a device works under those conditions, it will work in most storms! Lots of devices are marketed as water resistant – some even have Mil-Spec water resistance to falling rain/drips. However, only those devices that have passed the Blowing Rain Test will be suitable for harsher conditions.
  • Humidity Test: MIL-STD-810G Method 507.5 Procedure II – Of course, water doesn’t have to be falling from the sky to be a problem with electronics. In some situations, notably the tropics or certain industrial environments, there is so much water in the atmosphere that it can cause equipment to fail. The main issue here is the ability to transfer heat (reduced by the level of moisture in the air). If the device becomes overheated, units can become inoperable, temporarily or permanently. For this the DoD has developed the “Humidity Test: MIL-STD-810G Method 507.5 Procedure II” where a device is tested in temperature cycles of 86°F to 140°F at 95 percent relative humidity. If you know your workers will encounter tropical environments or other areas of high humidity, you need to ask whether your ruggedized device has been tested for high humidity and will it survive everywhere it may be needed?
  • Sand and Dust Resistance Test: MIL-STD-810G Method 510.5 Procedure I – At the other extreme from wet and humid conditions are harshly dry environments. Dryness alone is not ordinarily a problem for electrical equipment. However, in very arid outdoor locations dust and/or sand often arises and this can pose a problem. Indeed, it need not be an outdoor environment, since factories, mines or other indoor locations that are dry can sometimes be prone to high levels of particulates in the air. To simulate these situations the DoD developed the “Sand and Dust Resistance Test: MIL-STD-810G Method 510.5 Procedure I” which sees dust then sand being blown at a device over several hours in an environment of 140°F while operational. The test simulates situations like desert sandstorms or environments where unsealed devices, and those with fans, can have internal components exposed and damaged due to contaminants. If you need a rugged device to work in those environments you should ask for details about how the test was performed, to ensure the test is reflective of the environment your workers may find themselves needing to operate in.

To learn more about what “rugged” really means, and the questions that you need to ask your supplier, read the full whitepaper. And for more information on Panasonic’s rugged mobile computers and tablets, visit