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PEO Soldier Public Affairs
New technology is spawning better sensors and helping the Army of today to dominate the battlefield of tomorrow.
“Our mission is to provide the best equipment for our Soldiers,” said Col. Michael E. Sloane, Project Manager for Soldier Sensors and Lasers, or PM SSL. “Success means enabling our Soldiers to maintain combat overmatch on any battlefield anywhere on the globe.”
PM SSL is part of the Program Executive Office Soldier, and has the responsibility for getting high-tech sensors and lasers into the hands of American troops. Enablers, such as the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle, known as the ENVG, Thermal Weapon Sight, known as TWS and Laser Target Locator, or LTL, make it possible for Soldiers to “own their environment” day or night, and through obscurants, Sloane said.
“With these tools, Soldiers can acquire and engage targets well before our adversaries can gain the advantage,” he said.
The ENVG I was the first helmet-mounted fused (image intensification and thermal image) goggle, overlaying thermal imagery over traditional night vision into a single display for the Soldier.
By Bill Crawford, AMRDEC Public Affairs
Army researchers are going after solutions to help aircraft crews navigate in degraded visual environments, where weather, obscurants or obstacles may prove hazardous and even lethal.
Operations in degraded visual environments, known as DVE, are the primary contributing factor to a vast majority of Army aviation mishaps over the last decade: 80-percent of rotorcraft losses in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were due to “combat non-hostile or non-combat factors” including DVE, according to U.S. Army Program Executive Office Aviation officials.
At the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, the Army advances and implements technologies to address DVE safety issues and operational limitations.
“Reduced visibility of potentially varying degree, wherein situational awareness and aircraft control cannot be maintained as comprehensively as they are in normal visual meteorological conditions and can potentially be lost,” said Todd Dellert, an experimental test pilot and Acting Project Director, DVE Mitigation, or DVE-M.
By Eric Kowal, ARDEC Public Affairs
By integrating many small sensors into light mortar systems, Picatinny engineers are developing a technology for use on all U.S. military mortar systems to give Soldiers faster, more accurate mortar fire.
The Weaponized Universal Lightweight Fire-Control, known as WULF, couples many small sensors together to create a robust, lightweight pointing device that will increase mortar fire.
How much faster?
An average gun crew is expected to have the 81mm system aimed on target from a dismantled state in four minutes 30 seconds. With WULF, the setup time for the 81mm mortar systems is cut to one minute. The time between shots is reduced from 20 seconds to one or two seconds, increasing the repeatability of shots.
Fire control involves a computer, a pointing device, and gunner’s display to assist in aiming the weapon system.
Army science and technology officials are seeking ways to improve situational awareness, mobility, lethality and the maintainability and effectiveness of Army systems.
Advanced sensors will help meet future challenges, according to Mary J. Miller, who serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Miller gave the featured interview for the January/February 2015 Army Technology Magazine, which discusses sensors research.
Army Technology Magazine: What is the Army’s vision for sensors research?
Mary J. Miller: From my perspective, I think that Army S&T is looking at a broad number of approaches for what sensor capabilities we will need to meet future challenges. We’re looking to improve situational awareness, mobility, lethality and even improve the maintainability and effectiveness of our systems.
To achieve these capabilities, we are conducting research in areas such as networked Soldier helmet sensors. For mobility, we have a large effort in establishing Degraded Visual Environment capabilities that will ensure our rotorcraft can fly in any environment such as brownout, snow or just low-light levels. We’re also looking at ways to increase lethality. We just recently transitioned the third generation FLIR [short for Forward Looking Infrared], to the Program Executive Office for Intelligence Electronic Warfare and Sensors. This system gives us the ability to do identification at longer ranges than we have ever before. Identification is required for our rules of engagement in the Army. This is an example of a capability that was transitioned from the S&T community and has been very successful in early operational demonstrations.
Regarding maintainability and effectiveness, we’ve been researching sensors that can be put in the skins of platforms to understand the environment they’ve been in – measuring vibration, ballistic impact or even thermal cycling. We can even determine battle damage assessment with embedded sensors. We put sensors in our missiles as well to better assess their status. By understanding what they have experienced, we can determine what capacity they have going forward or whether they have been degraded.
Finally, sensors can enable better power management by telling us when we need to have more power in a particular sub-system and less in another. We can then divert energy to improve effectiveness overall.
Army Technology Magazine: What’s the value in this research? How does it empower Soldiers?
Miller: Sensors and situational awareness are the keys to our Soldiers being effective. I think we’ve all seen the reports that have come out of Afghanistan where unfortunately a majority of the engagements our Soldiers (at the squad and team level) had with the enemy is because they were surprised. That is a situation in which we do not want to put any of our Soldiers. Holistically the work we have been doing in our sensor technology areas is to help ensure that never happens.
Whether the Soldier is dismounted in a squad fighting in Afghanistan, or is a helicopter pilot having to land and pick up Soldiers in an austere environment, or even a ground platform driver traveling unfamiliar roads at night, we want to provide all of these Soldiers the best capabilities that we can — the capability to conduct their mission with full situational awareness in any situation.
Army Technology Magazine: In realizing the Army’s vision of the future, how critical are S&T investments?
Miller: The Chief of Staff of the Army and the Secretary of the Army have looked at science and technology (S&T) and our portfolios of investments as the enablers for the future.
The Army has been facing significant fiscal challenges and we have had to make tough trades between operational readiness, force structure and modernization. Unfortunately given those three, modernization is the one that suffers.
Since 2012, our modernization accounts have gone down about 40 percent, and that is significant. Modernization accounts are what create the future capability for the Army. The Army stood up and decided to protect its investments in the science and technology world. Why? Because the Army is now looking to us [the S&T Enterprise] to underpin what will become future capability for the Soldier. They have expanded our mission. They’ve challenged us to go farther than we’ve gone before, to develop prototypes of new capabilities and do experimentation in conjunction with Soldiers to ensure that’s what the Army needs. We’re doing this hand-in-hand with our Training and Doctrine Command. It’s a collaborative effort where we are aligned more than ever with our program executive offices, with TRADOC — our requirements team — and also the S&T community, to make sure we are doing the right things for the Army of the future.
Army Technology Magazine: What about partnerships between Army S&T, industry and academia?
Miller: We need to do more. As our budget reduces, we have to leverage other’s technology development. This is both a challenge and an opportunity. It’s a challenge because frankly we don’t do that very well. It’s an opportunity because there are folks out there with good ideas that we should be trying to leverage. We do better with academia because our labs are experienced in working with basic and applied research and we have many opportunities to engage with Universities. If you listen to our Defense Acquisition Executive, Mr. Kendall, and read Better Buying Power 3.0, he talks about the need to better leverage Industry IR&D, or Independent Research and Development, investments. Those are investments that industry makes in what they see as the next technology breakthroughs. Industry focuses their R&D investments on those technologies they believe will provide future returns. By informing industry of Army needs, we hope to encourage industry to align the IR&D to meet these needs. I think there is more to be done there to align and leverage as much as we can out of industry.
It’s not just industry and academia [that we need to leverage]. It’s also our foreign partners as well. From my office, in conjunction with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Defense Exports and Cooperation (who is responsible for international engagement and foreign military sales), we’ve done a more strategic outreach to our partner nations to figure out the technologies that are out there in our global economy. Other nations may have a slight edge on us or a different approach in certain technology areas. We hope to leverage their expertise by making strategic alliances. Very often in the past our international engagements were bottom-up driven. Our laboratory experts would be talking with fellow foreign laboratory experts and they would come up with a project they wanted to do together. The compliment to this approach is where we are making alliances that are strategically driven — where we go out and target technology areas where we know foreign countries have expertise and bring that expertise in to help the Army go forward.
Army Technology Magazine: What’s your message to Army researchers and engineers?
Miller: I am optimistic about the future. Those of us that have been in the Army for awhile know that we always have budget downfalls and then increases. It’s always going to be a roller coaster ride, but at the end of the day the reason we work for the Army is that there are some unique challenges and opportunities for our researchers.
The Army is really relying on our scientists and engineers throughout the S&T Enterprise to step into the breach and basically plot what will be the future for the Army. We are being asked to stand up and deliver, and I fully expect that we will. I have yet to see us fail at being able to solve a problem.
We have some of the world’s best scientists and engineers here within the Army and the Department of Defense dedicated to the work they do in helping the Soldier. It is so clear that the Soldier is our customer. We have a good track record of bringing folks in from the outside, not for the pay, not for the great hours, but because we have such a unique problem and the ability to help and to make a difference.
It is a critical role that the S&T Enterprise plays. As I said, the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Army have protected the S&T community through the last couple of years of budget downsizing for this very reason. They see us as a key enabler of the future going forward.
Editor’s note: Since February 2013, Mary J. Miller has served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology. She is responsible for the entirety of Army research and technology programs, spanning 16 laboratories and research, development and engineering Centers, with more than 12,000 scientists and engineers and a yearly budget of more than $2 billion dedicated to empowering, unburdening and protecting Soldiers. She earned an Army Research and Development Achievement Award in 1988 for her technical achievement in the “Development of Nonlinear Materials for Sensor Protection.” She has been awarded four patents for sensor protection designs, with two additional patents pending. Miller has published more than 50 papers and has addressed over 30 major commands and international groups with technical presentations. She holds master of science degrees in business administration from the University of Tennessee and in electrical engineering, electro-physics from the George Washington University. Her undergraduate degree is a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from the University of Washington in Seattle. The Army selected her for the Senior Executive Service in August 2005.
This article appears in the January/February 2015 issue of Army Technology Magazine, which focuses on sensors research. 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.
By David McNally, RDECOM Public Affairs
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Jan. 1, 2015) — Army scientists and engineers are advancing sensors research in hopes of giving future Soldiers enhanced situational awareness.
Sensor technology has broad application across the Army. Medical researchers are investigating how physiological sensors may help Soldiers achieve superior performance on battlefields of the future. Soldiers of 2025 and beyond may wear sensors to help detect and prevent threats such as dehydration, elevated blood pressure and cognitive delays from lack of sleep.
“I think that Army S&T is looking at a broad number of approaches for what sensor capabilities we will need to meet future challenges,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology Mary J. Miller in an interview with Army Technology Magazine. “We’re looking to improve situational awareness, mobility, lethality and even improve the maintainability and effectiveness of our systems.”
Miller is the featured interview for the January-February 2015 issue of the publication, which focuses on the future of Army sensors.
Army Technology Magazine interviewed Dr. Paul D. Rogers, director of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center at the Detroit Arsenal in Warren, Michigan. Rogers provides executive management to deliver advanced technology solutions for all Department of Defense ground systems and combat support equipment.
Army Technology: Over the past 10 years, robotics, or autonomy-enabled systems, have gone from a novelty to an asset among Soldiers. What is the current view of autonomy-enabled systems in the field?
Rogers: One of the greatest threats to our servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan has been the roadside bomb. For more than a decade of war, we’ve witnessed how unmanned systems have been effective at keeping our Soldiers at safe distances from this danger. As we plan for the future, we’ve determined that advanced autonomy-enabled technologies will play an even greater role in keeping our Soldiers safe. Not by replacing them, but by providing a continuum of capabilities that will augment and enable them, while filling some of the Army’s most challenging capability gaps.
We’ve put a lot of work into developing a 30-year ground vehicle strategy, and user understanding and acceptance of autonomy-enabled technologies is vital for the Army to realize the strategy’s full value. With today’s fast-paced operational tempo, the Army experiences a lot of accidents due to driver inattentiveness, external distractions and fatigue. In the short term, the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System [AMAS] technology, successfully demonstrated several times this year by TARDEC and Lockheed Martin, can solve these problems by providing our drivers with viable options, up to and including: conducting manned or optionally-manned missions; utilizing a suite of driver-assist features, such as adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigating braking, lane-keeping assist, electronic stability and rollover warnings; or operating in the fully autonomous mode.
The AMAS kit can be installed on many military ground vehicle platforms, providing driver assist safety enhancements that are easily understood by the drivers. Our goal is to ease the cognitive and/or physical burden placed on our Soldiers, and augment human performance to better enable mission accomplishment. Guided by the 30-Year Ground Vehicle Strategy, we will continue to integrate more scalable autonomy-enabled features into our ground vehicle systems in the future.
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Nov. 3, 2014) — The U.S. Army is investing in robotics research and development with a vision of increasing autonomy.
“As we plan for the future, we’ve determined that advanced autonomy-enabled technologies will play an even greater role in keeping our Soldiers safe,” said Dr. Paul D. Rogers, director of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center at the Detroit Arsenal, Warren, Michigan.
In the November/December 2014 issue of Army Technology Magazine, Rogers outlines the future of autonomous vehicles research and development. His aim is not to replace Soldiers, but provide a “continuum of capabilities that will augment and enable them, while filling some of the Army’s most challenging capability gaps.”
Far Future: Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance
By David McNally, RDECOM Public Affairs
The U.S. Army envisions a future where robots are integral members of the team performing autonomous actions and maintaining current capabilities.
Five years ago, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory set out to pursue this vision by forming the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance. It sought partners in industry and academia to explore technologies required for the deployment of future intelligent military unmanned ground vehicle systems ranging in size from man-portables to ground combat vehicles.
“The future for unmanned systems lies in the development of highly capable systems, which have a set of intelligence-based capabilities sufficient to enable the teaming of autonomous systems with Soldiers,” said Dr. Jonathan A. Bornstein, chief, Autonomous Systems Division for ARL and the collaborative alliance manager. “To act as teammates, robotic systems will need to reason about their missions, move through the world in a tactically correct way, observe salient events in the world around them, communicate efficiently with Soldiers and other autonomous systems and effectively perform a variety of mission tasks.”
By Bruce J. Huffman, TARDEC Public Affairs
Army engineers from the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center at Detroit Arsenal, Michigan, are developing technology solutions for autonomy-enabled systems.
TARDEC and an industry partner, Lockheed Martin, demonstrated the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System or AMAS at Fort Hood, Texas in January 2014.
Researchers transformed ordinary trucks from the Army’s current vehicle fleet into optionally-manned vehicles, offering drivers new safety features and additional capabilities that never existed until now.
“These systems are designed, not to replace warfighters, but to help unburden them and augment their capabilities,” said Bernard Theisen, TARDEC program manager for AMAS.
By Jeff Sisto, NSRDEC Public Affairs
Wearable technologies may provide U.S. Soldiers with on-the-move, portable energy and reduce the weight of gear they carry into combat.
Researchers at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center are developing Soldier-borne energy harvesting technologies.
During the Maneuver Fires Integration Experiment, or MFIX, a combined, multi-phase joint training exercise held in September 2014 at Fort Benning, Georgia, researchers tested prototype energy harvesting technology solutions.
“My initial impression is that they fulfill a need for instant power generation on long-range missions when displaced from traditional resupply methods,” said Sgt. 1st Class Arthur H. Jones, an infantryman with the Maneuver Center of Excellence who participated in the demonstration.
by Dr. Gregory R. Hudas, TARDEC Ground Vehicle Robotics chief engineer
The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command is synergizing research centers and labs under its command to create a robotics community that will enhance the Army’s ability to employ autonomy-enabled vehicle technologies to support the Soldier in every aspect of their operational life.
The U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Ground Vehicle Robotics division is spearheading that initiative for the RDECOM community to create a Robotics Community of Practice, known as the CoP. The new Robotics CoP will speak with one voice coming from RDECOM to provide a concise message to the Army and Department of Defense customers we support. It’s all about removing redundancy across programs and collaborating a lot more closely as an enterprise.
The community charter, which is in the early development stages, will eventually help lay out the roles and responsibilities for each research, development and engineering center, whether that is by enabling autonomy, platforms, capabilities or usage. The CoP will also strive to achieve critical missions that regularly demonstrate evolutionary technology advancements, provide long-term data collection, promote open architecture across all stakeholder communities and strengthen those stakeholder partnerships. RDECOM needs the CoP to seek collaboration with key partners from academia, industry and the other service branches and federal laboratories to develop these autonomy-enabled vehicle technologies, and then demonstrate those systems, subsystems and capabilities to the user community ― our Soldiers and Marines. Our collaborative partnerships are crucial for strengthening governance, standards and collective strategy moving forward.
By David McNally, RDECOM Public Affairs
Scientists and engineers from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory gathered Sept. 10, 2014 to discuss ethical robots.
Dr. Ronald C. Arkin, a professor from Georgia Tech, roboticist and author, challenged Army researchers to consider the implications of future autonomous robots.
“The bottom line for my talk here and elsewhere is concern for noncombatant casualties on the battlefield,” Arkin said. “I believe there is a fundamental responsibility as scientists and technologists to consider this problem. I do believe that we can, must and should apply this technology in this particular space.”
By Ed Lopez, Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs
In popular culture, the idea of robots that perform human-like functions has a special hold on the imagination, based on real-life examples like space exploration, unmanned aerial drones and stoked by futuristic scenarios in movies like the “Terminator” series.
The military has used and experimented with robots that perform functions such as scouting and surveillance, carrying supplies and detecting and disposing of improvised homemade bombs.
However, when it comes to integrating lethality, such as a weapon capable of firing 10 rounds per second onto an unmanned ground vehicle, issues arise such as safety, effectiveness and reliability, as well as military doctrine on how much human involvement is required.
By David McNally, RDECOM Public Affairs
Future Army robotics systems will rely on open architecture, modular design and innovative concepts to perform missions from surveillance to wide area route clearance, according to Army officials.
“In the Army we always say, ‘never send our Soldiers into a fair fight,’” said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Heidi Shyu said in the keynote address Aug. 13, 2014, to the National Defense Industrial Association Ground Robotics Capabilities Conference and Exhibition in Hyattsville, Maryland.
Hundreds of industry representatives, researchers and engineers gathered for the event, which provided a forum for the industry and government to identify technologies that will help meet future warfighter needs.
By Jeffrey Sisto, NSRDEC Public Affairs
Researchers at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center are developing technologies for a pocket-sized aerial surveillance device for Soldiers and small units operating in challenging ground environments.
The Cargo Pocket Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance program, or CP-ISR, seeks to develop a mobile Soldier sensor to increase the situational awareness of dismounted Soldiers by providing real-time video surveillance of threat areas within an immediate operational environment.
While larger systems have been used to provide over-the-hill ISR capabilities on the battlefield for almost a decade, none deliver it directly to the squad level where Soldiers need the ability to see around the corner or into the next room during combat missions.
By Joyce P. Brayboy, ARL Public Affairs
Army researchers are finding they have much to learn from bees hovering near a picnic spread at a park.
Dr. Joseph Conroy, an electronics engineer at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, part of the Research, Development and Engineering Command, works with robotic systems that can navigate by leveraging visual sensing inspired by insect neurophysiology.
A recently developed prototype that is capable of wide-field vision and high update rate, hallmarks of insect vision, is something researchers hope to test at the manned and unmanned teaming, or MUM-T exercise at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Georgia. This project will give us a chance to implement methods of perception such as 3-D mapping and motion estimation on a robotics platform, Conroy said.
ECBC Public Affairs
Soldiers entering a building suspected of chemical contamination are exposed to an unpredictable environment with potentially hostile forces. Inconclusive information and a lack of concrete data make it difficult for them to make timely decisions during a critical mission.
Army researchers are working on technology solutions to give Soldiers key information to keep them safe from chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosives threats.
The future of chem-bio detection is wrapped in the evolution of technology, according to experts from the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
The center is demonstrating advanced detection equipment for sensitive-site assessments where the threat is likely, but remains unknown.
By Ryan Keith, AMRDEC Public Affairs
Virtually all aircraft, from the Wright brothers first airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to the unmanned aircraft systems employed in operations today, share a common component: Pilots. Whether in the cockpit or through remote control, pilots have remained a critical component to aviation, until now.
Researchers at the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center at Redstone, Alabama, are developing and demonstrating autonomous flight technologies that promise to change the future of aviation.
By David McNally, RDECOM Public Affairs
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Oct. 28, 2014) — Army researchers are evaluating prototype devices developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, Warrior Web program’s goal is to create a soft, lightweight undersuit to help reduce injuries and fatigue, while improving mission performance. DARPA is responsible for the development of new technologies for the U.S. military.
Researchers from Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering spent the past two years developing a biologically inspired smart suit that aims to boost efficiency through a new approach. A series of webbing straps contain a microprocessor and a network of strain sensors.
“The suit mimics the action of leg muscles and tendons so a Soldier’s muscles expend less energy,” said Dr. Ignacio Galiana, a robotics engineer working on the project.
Galiana said the team looked to nature for inspiration in developing cables and pulleys that interact with small motors to provide carefully timed assistance without restricting movement.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Oct. 22, 2014) — When an Army Special Forces officer-turned engineer puts his mind to designing a military riflescope, he doesn’t forget the importance of creating something for the Soldiers who will carry it that is easy to use, extremely accurate, light-weight and has long-lasting battery power.
Sandia National Laboratories optical engineer Brett Bagwell led the development of the Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles, or RAZAR, prototype. At the push of a button, RAZAR can toggle between high and low magnifications, enabling soldiers to zoom in without having to remove their eyes from their targets or their hands from their rifles.
“The impetus behind the idea of push-button zoom is you can acquire what you’re interested in at low magnification and, without getting lost, zoom in for more clarity,” Bagwell said.