Thoughts about the rugged computer “drop spec”

How devices are tested

The next question is: are all falls equal? Obviously, they are not. It depends on how the device falls, which partly makes an impact, and what surface that impact is on. A device may survive a fall from a very significant height if it falls flat onto a grassy meadow. But it may break if it falls onto a jagged rock from just a foot or two. That is where the word “reasonable” comes into play. There are falls that one may reasonably expect on the job. And there are more unlikely scenarios that may happen once in a million.        

What that means is that drop testing is a lot about common sense. Reasonable drop heights, reasonable drop scenarios, and reasonable assumptions. 

handheld nautiz x9 in mud
The Handheld Nautiz X9 survives 26 drops from 1.5 m (5 ft).

As is, by far the most often used standard for drop testing is the United States Department of Defense MIL-STD-810G. In Method 516.6 Procedure IV of that standard, the DOD outlines how things are to be drop-tested. Testing must be repeatable, and items must be tested in the same configuration that is actually used in transportation, handling, or a combat situation. To that extent, the DOD not only describes how many times an item has to be dropped with a passing score but also what surface it has to be dropped on.