'Drink Up — Fly Dry!' $5 million in-flight bladder relief for combat pilots

Pop quiz: During a mission several hours long, how do fighter pilots find relief? The unfortunate answer: "piddle packs." That's why the Advanced Mission Extender Device, or AMXD, is arriving to sighs of relief for more than just the comfort it provides.

Omni Medical Solutions rose to a challenge posed by the Department of Defense to improve in-flight bladder relief for fighter pilots and, with $5 million in federal and private funding, came up with the AMXD. Before taking off, a pilot dons a kind of diaper, which has a short rubber hose. Pilots, both male and female, only have to unzip and attach the hose the the AMXD unit, which pumps urine into a collection bag that turns it into a gel.

More than just a comfortable way to go, the AMXD addresses safety concerns, too. The current in-flight relief method involving urinating into a piddle pack means unbuckling from the flight harness and sometimes even turning around in a tight space — while continuing to fly. If it sounds dangerous, that's because it is. Planes have even gone down because of it.

So far, the Air Force has only purchased 300 AMXD systems for its pool of 4,200 pilots who fly aircraft without a proper latrine. The unit has already seen some action, however, as the AMXD was used by female helicopter pilots from the Netherlands who fought in Afghanistan.