Army engineers increase situational awareness for route clearance teams
By Allison Barrow, CERDEC Public Affairs
U.S. Army researchers are reducing the cognitive load on Soldiers by streamlining critical surveillance functions as part of counter-explosive, route clearance missions inside the Medium Mine Protected Vehicle, known as MMPV.
By collapsing the multiple video displays within the vehicle into a single touchscreen display, the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, in partnership with Product Manager Assured Mobility Systems, set out to increase situational awareness and operator efficiency, while decreasing size, weight and power, or SWaP.
Because of the way the counter-IED threat has evolved, there are an increased number of individual systems inside the MMPV compartments, such as imaging sensors, weapon systems and communications equipment, said Sean Jellish, CERDEC Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate Multifunction Video Display lead engineer.
“In the past we were at war, and everyone was trying to get new systems into the field,” Jellish said. “The quickest way to do that was everybody having their own equipment thrown out there.”
CERDEC engineers developed the MVD in response to a requirement from the product manager for a common display to view and control all vehicle enablers simultaneously at all crew system stations inside the vehicle.
Soldiers have had to operate each system independently and on different displays, which led to issues with integration, capability growth and seamless operations. Full-motion video could also only be displayed at one Soldier’s dedicated display, Jellish said.
“Every seat in the vehicle has multiple displays in front of it and the Soldier in that seat is the one person that operates that sensor,” he said. “So you have all these different stove-piped sensor systems there, and it’s super cumbersome to deal with all those systems for the Soldier.”
“We started by putting a request for information out … and jointly we also had them [NVESD] continue working a system demonstrator for us themselves,” said Brian Wilson, Systems Integration team leader for the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Route Clearance Vehicle Team, which is working with the product manager.
“We were so impressed with what they were doing from the system demonstrator that we took a hard approach to say, ‘Well we’d be able to keep this software in-house with the government and that would be the best case scenario because we’d have control of it and it wouldn’t be tied to a particular contractor,’” Wilson said.
NVESD engineers quickly adapted their previous research with a Multisensor Graphical User Interface, which takes a wide field of view sensor and uses it to control a narrow field of view, highly magnified sensor.
By bringing all the sensor systems together in one unified display, each Soldier has access to all of them at each operator station, increasing situational awareness and operator efficiency.
If one Soldier seems something on the monitor, other Soldiers can switch to that sensor’s view on their displays. In the past, only one Soldier would be able to look at that sensor system’s view. The system can also record the images and video captured while in route, Jellish said.
“This is going to be a major benefit to the user,” Wilson said. “Every single Soldier will be able to see what is on the enabler because you have the ability to toggle between all the different video feeds that are on that truck. So that is going to increase, from an operational standpoint, the time on target for route clearance missions. It’s going to improve communication and it also starts to get rid of the multiple screens.”
The innovative system also improves training for Soldiers operating the vehicle as they will only have to learn to operate a single user interface.
“It improves operator efficiency, in that you get rid of the over-abundance of displays in front of them,” Jellish said. “It also is reducing the SWaP on the vehicle because it’s getting rid of all that dedicated hardware, so it frees up a lot of space in the vehicle and reduces cost.”
The Army Test and Evaluation Command is testing the MVDs in vehicles at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona. NVESD engineers will review the results and address any concerns.
“It’s where the truck should be going,” Jellish said. “The capabilities are there, the processing power, the technology is there to do this. Now we’re actually implementing that and getting it out into the field. That’s the game-changing aspect of it, it’s getting rid of all this multitude of displays that are in the vehicle and just bringing it down to one display at each seat, but that display can control everything.”
There is also the potential to integrate MVD into other Army vehicles in the future, Wilson said.
“We’re just scratching the surface with this initial system and the initial capability we’re putting out,” Wilson said. “There’s so much growth potential in this to actually potentially push video feeds to other trucks within the route clearance unit.”
This article appears in the July/August 2015 issue of Army Technology Magazine, which focuses on innovation. The magazine is available as an electronic download, or print publication. The magazine is an authorized, unofficial publication published under Army Regulation 360-1, for all members of the Department of Defense and the general public.