Let’s talk about the “drop spec”

By: Conrad H. Blickenstorfer RuggedPCReview.com


The “drop spec”

In rugged computing circles, the “drop spec” refers to testing a device in accordance with the procedures outlined in the United States Department of Defense’s Test Method Standard — Environmental Engineering Considerations and Laboratory Tests, generally referred to as the MIL-STD-810G. The gold standard, generally, is dropping a device from four feet in various prescribed ways. If it still works after the testing, it passes. If not, not. But why four feet? Can it be less or more? 

Makers of rugged handhelds are known to casually mention that while their products are certified to survive the mandatory MIL-STD-810G four foot drops, they can really handle much more. To prove the point, some have published videos showing drops from 8, 10, 12 feet and even higher.

So why the 4-foot drop? Was it simply designed by the military to see if a box would survive a drop from an Army truck? Is the 4-foot drop important in the real world? 

It is. In the real world three feet means something can survive falling off a desk or being dropped when it is carried walking around. Three feet, however, is not enough for tablets or handhelds. When you use one of those and it slips out of your hands, it drops from about four feet. And if it’s a device that can also be used as a phone, during a call it may fall from five or even six feet.