Planting the seed: Natick tests hydroponic farming

Lettuce grows in towers illuminated by LED lights inside a re-purposed former refrigerated shipping container behind the Combat Feeding Directorate at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center. (U.S. Army photo by Michael Stepien)

By Bob Reinert/USAG Natick Public Affairs

NATICK, Mass. (Oct. 16, 2015) — Don Holman was raised on a farm in Michigan and served 30 years in the Navy, which makes him a perfect fit to help test whether American warships could one day grow their own fresh vegetables.

Inside a repurposed former refrigerated shipping container tucked behind the Combat Feeding Directorate, or CFD, at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, Holman has been growing lettuce since August in a climate-controlled, 40-by-8-foot “hydroponic farm.” What will be a year-long effort has been undertaken for the Navy, which aims to explore the capability of growing produce at sea utilizing hydroponics technology.

“I want to see what can grow and what can’t grow,” said Holman, an engineering technician with the Joint Foodservice and Engineering Team at CFD and a retired command master chief. “We want to experiment with all varieties of vegetables and see how much produce we can produce.

Army scientists improve biosurveillance technology

Army researchers set up biological sensors for an operational demonstration at a U.S. military installation in the Republic of Korea. (U.S. Army photo)

ECBC Public Affairs

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Nov. 2, 2015) — Members of an Army chemical-biological research team set up biological sensors for an operational demonstration at a U.S. military installation in Osan, Republic of Korea.

The Joint United States Forces Korea Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition, known as JUPITR, is a program led by the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense, or JPEO-CBD, and supported by the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, or ECBC, will provide unique biological detection capabilities to address the demand for stronger biosurveillance capabilities on the Korean Peninsula.

ECBC scientists and engineers said they brought, “biosurveillance capabilities into the 21st century.”

“What they all had in common is that they were eager to take on something new, to develop new knowledge,” said Jennifer Thermos, the Assessment of Environmental Detection leg lead for Project JUPITR.

“I handpicked them based on their excitement and enthusiasm for taking on a task as challenging as the Assessment of Environmental Detectors leg of Project JUPITR.” Continue reading

Student’s research continues to develop at Army Research Laboratory

Ben Burke’s summer project at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory focused on the development of a phantom head for testing electroencephalography, or EEG headsets. EEG is the process of measuring electrical activity on the scalp to determine brain function. Shown with Burke (center) are his mentors, Alfred Yu (left) and Dave Hairston. (U.S. Army photo by Joyce Conant)

By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public Affairs

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Oct. 28, 2015) — Ben Burke’s College Qualified Leadership, or CQL, internship at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Human Research and Engineering Directorate came to an end this summer when he returned to college at the University of Maryland, College Park, but his project at ARL continues to develop.

Burke’s project focused on the development of a phantom head for testing electroencephalography, or EEG headsets. EEG is the process of measuring electrical activity on the scalp to determine brain function.

Burke, who is majoring in biological sciences with a possible minor in neuroscience, was mentored by Drs. W. David Hairston and Alfred Yu — both of whom are in ARL’s Translational Neuroscience Branch.

“The goal of this project was to design and fabricate a molded human head out of ballistics gel. The mold is based on an MR (magnetic resonance) image of one of our lab members, with some of the facial features anonymized. This image was used to 3-D print an inverse mold, which also contains a specially designed base containing wires to serve as internal electrical sites inside of the head,” said Hairston.

“Since ballistics gel is grossly similar to organic tissue in its conductance profile, the head can then be used as a test fixture with our EEG equipment either to test the equipment’s function, model different sources of environmental noise and how it affects the equipment, or verify different kinds of algorithms that we use for processing or analyzing data.” Continue reading

U.S. Army science advisors engage in technology discussions in Malaysia

A Soldier assigned to Commanche Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, shows a member of the 9th Royal Ranger Regiment, Malaysian Armed Forces, how to properly adjust a M240L machine gun while it is mounted on a tripod during the academics week of Keris Strike 2015. (U.S. Army photo)

By Dan Lafontaine, RDECOM Public Affairs

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Oct. 30, 2015) — U.S. Army science advisors traveled to Exercise Keris Strike 15 in Malaysia to discuss technological and equipment issues with Soldiers.

Lt. Col. David Scooler, director of the U.S. Army International Technology Center in Singapore, said 25th Infantry Division Soldiers shared their challenges operating in a jungle environment.

“We went out there looking for problems that Soldiers are encountering and capturing those. Many of the Soldiers were concerned about the current boots versus the old jungle boots from Vietnam,” he said. “The current treads on boots have poor gripping capability in the muddy jungle. It has a soft heel instead of a rugged heel where they could dig in when climbing up wet terrain.

“There is ongoing research to develop a better combat boot.”

Members of the Malaysian 9th Royal Ranger Regiment ask questions to U.S. Soldiers about the M240L Machine Gun after a rate of fire demonstration during the academic week of Exercise Keris Strike Sept. 15, 2015. (U.S. Army photo)

Keris Strike is an annual, bilateral exercise hosted by the Malaysian Armed Forces. This year marks the 19th iteration. Continue reading

Picatinny launches app to search laboratories across the DOD

The app contains facts and media about each laboratory, as well as an RSS news feed that pulls science and technology articles from across the Defense Laboratory Enterprise. (U.S. Army illustration)

By Audra Calloway, Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (Oct. 27, 2015) — Software engineers at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, orARDEC, have developed a new mobile application that allows users to research laboratories across the Department of Defense.

The Defense Laboratory Enterprise eSmartbook application, which is open to the public and available on both Apple and Android devices, was designed and developed in-house at the ARDEC Armament Software Engineering Center through coordination with the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Research and Engineering) Defense Laboratory Office.

It contains facts and media about each laboratory, as well as an RSS news feed that pulls science and technology articles from across the Defense Laboratory Enterprise.

The app improves upon information previously provided as a portable document file, or PDF, and hard, printed copy. Continue reading

Army illustrator helps researchers

Autumn Kulaga is a biomedical illustrator at ARL. She uses CT scans to create a variety of 2-D and 3-D medical illustrations and animations, other graphic designs, data visualizations and 3-D models. (U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)

ARL Public Affairs

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MD (October 27, 2015) — An Army artist is making a difference at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

Autumn Kulaga is a biomedical illustrator at ARL. She uses CT scans to create a variety of 2-D and 3-D medical illustrations and animations, other graphic designs, data visualizations and 3-D models. All of these are used to clearly and succinctly communicate and visualize the injuries sustained.

Depicting injuries is not always easy using injury photographs and medical imaging, such as computerized tomography, or CT, scans. Scans do not necessarily highlight the injury of interest and, as a result, include unnecessary information such as unaffected body tissue and non-related injuries. They also sometimes reveal personally identifying features. Also, customers served by the ARL Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate, known as ARL-SLAD, are often not experts in anatomy, and benefit from illustrations to understand and analyze the injury depicted. ARL develops custom medical art and illustrations to help analysts visualize, archive and communicate pertinent information about injuries.

“I have always gravitated towards art and science,” Kulaga said. “To me these subjects are symbiotic, and therefore medical illustration seemed like a great path forward for my career. Not only does this let me use my creative talents on a daily basis, but I am constantly learning new material as I become involved in different projects.” Continue reading

Early environmental testing quickly pushes equipment to the limit

Wai-mun Leung, CERDEC CP&I engineer, assembles a unit under test to prepare for the Battery Box Violent Vent Simulation Test, located within the CERDEC C4ISR Environmental Test Facility. The test releases high pressure nitrogen into the battery box to simulate a battery rupture, causing a virtually instantaneous spike in pressure. This test ensures the container releases the pressure in a safe, controlled manner without releasing projectiles. (U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)

By Kathryn BaileyCERDEC

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (October 27, 2015) — A U.S. Army environmental test facility provides capabilities to test design integrity, ensure equipment adheres to military specifications and troubleshoot design prototypes to ensure the most comprehensive equipment reaches the warfighter.

Explosive atmospheres, extreme temperature fluctuations and powerful vibrations — these are just some of the punishing environmental conditions military communications equipment must endure on the battlefield or in the sky.

Field survivability tests are an effective means to test the equipment’s functionality and ensure Soldier safety, but Army and industry developers also use environmental test labs as a viable alternative to real-life testing.

“Using a lab to replicate the harshest environmental conditions expedites the testing process at a fraction of the cost,” said Christopher Manning, Command Power & Integration Directorate’s Prototype Integration & Testing Division chief, under the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC. Continue reading

DOD collaboration researches munition safety

U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center Chief Scientist for Energetics, Dr. Jamie Neidert presents an overview for the Munitions Area Technology Group II concerning minimum signature rocket propulsion goals. (U.S. Army photo)

By Nikki Montgomery, AMRDEC Public Affairs

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Oct. 23, 2015) — Government, industry, and academic partners are working together to improve the way munitions function to protect the safety of our future warfighters.

The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, or AMRDEC, hosted a Department of Defense collaboration to discuss Insensitive Munitions at the Dynetics Solutions Complex Oct. 20–23.

The Joint Insensitive Munitions Technology Program convenes biannually to exchange research information focused on improving the lethality, reliability, safety, and survivability of munitions and weapon systems, as well as ensuring IM compliance. IMs describe those munitions that will not react to unintentional triggers causing catastrophic damage that impairs warfighting capability.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense directs the approximate $32 million dollar program while it is managed by the U.S. Army Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Center, another U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command organization.

JIMTP Program Manager, Anthony Di Stasio expressed the anticipated improvements gained from the Fall Review. Continue reading

Army to field new portable oxygen generator

The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency will soon begin fielding a new 12-pound portable oxygen generator that will drastically reduce logistical issues related to oxygen supply for patient care in the field. (U.S. Army photo by Adam Wyatt)

By Ellen Crown, USAMRMC Deputy Public Affairs Officer

FORT DETRICK, Md. (Oct. 21, 2015) — The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency will soon begin fielding a new 12-pound portable oxygen generator that will drastically reduce logistical issues related to oxygen supply for patient care in the field.

The USAMMA, a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, plans to field the generators in its kits, such as air ambulance and ground ambulance, as well as unit assemblages provided for forward surgical teams, EMT/trauma and pre-op and intensive care ward/post-op. The generator will augment the ‘D’ cylinder for patient care and transport, providing a continuous supply of oxygen for non-critical patients using standard electrical power.

“Instead of lugging around 10 cylinders, which weigh 9 pounds each, a medic will now bring this one 12-pound device, which runs on a rechargeable battery and can produce three liters of 93 percent oxygen per minute,” said Maj. Norland James, assistant program manager of health care technologies at the USAMMA. “This is going to save the government countless dollars and reduce the giant logistical footprint that we have when it comes to patient care oxygen in the field.” Continue reading

Maryland General Assembly, Commerce Department meet Team APG Cyber

CERDEC Director Henry Muller (left), Maryland State Senator James Posapepe, U.S. Army CECOM Commanding General and APG Senior Mission Command Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford, Maryland State Senator William Frick, and CECOM Software Engineering Center Director Larry Muzzelo discuss Team APG’s impact on military cyberspace operations Oct. 19, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Kristopher Joseph)

By Kristen Kushiyama

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md.(Oct. 22, 2015) — Members of the Maryland General Assembly visited one of the state’s largest employers to meet with Army leaders, tour high-tech laboratories and gain a better understanding of the cyber work conducted here Oct. 19.

The Maryland Joint Committee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology and Biotechnology and representatives from the Maryland Department of Commerce learned about various aspects of the Army’s cyber strategy led by organizations that make up the Aberdeen Proving Ground community known as Team APG, which employs more than 21,000 service members, government civilians and contractors.

Team APG leadership said they are moving forward with mapping the future of the installation’s cyber contributions to the Army to include lifecycle management, system vulnerability analysis, training the current and future military and government workforce, and partnering with industry, academia, international allies, and other government labs to develop future tactical cyber capabilities. Continue reading

AMC commander visits CERDEC sensors, power

Gen. Dennis L. Via, commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, sees a demonstration on ground combat sensor technologies during a visit to CERDEC Oct. 16. (U.S. Army photo by Julie Goldberg)

CERDEC Public Affairs

FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Oct. 19, 2015) — Gen. Dennis L. Via, commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, saw the latest in Army night-vision and power technologies for the Army of 2030 and beyond during a visit to the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, Oct. 16, 2015.

Via received demonstrations that included the evolution of the thermal weapon sight; target handoff with coded spot tracker; third generation forward-looking infrared technologies; infrared cameras for future applications in heads up navigation, tracking and reporting; and multifunction video displays.

Via was pleased by the strides in technology that CERDEC is making to improve technologies and unburden the logistics load on the Soldier, he said. Continue reading

Unmanned aircraft: New kid on block flexing muscle

An unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, operator, with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, assembles a Raven during a UAV refresher course, on Fort Bragg, N.C., Feb. 5, 2013. The Raven is slightly smaller than the UAVs that infantry units commonly operate in Afghanistan, but the skills to fly them both are the same. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

By Keith Oliver, Army News Service

WASHINGTON (Oct. 14, 2015) — WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 14, 2015) — “It’s a tactical capability working at a strategic distance.”

That’s what Army Col. Courtney Cote told a gaggle of mostly aviation and aerospace media at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition, or AUSA. He was talking about unmanned aerial systems — the new player on the battlefield that, Cote asserts, is here to stay. Continue reading

Army unveils Excalibur, one of the world’s top 20 supercomputers

Army officials said more powerful computers will allow the DOD research community to develop solutions to the most difficult technological challenges. (U.S. Army illustration)

By Dan Lafontaine, RDECOM Public Affairs

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Oct. 16, 2015) — The U.S. Army introduced its newest supercomputer, Excalibur, which will help to ensure Soldiers have the technological advantage on the battlefield, officials said.

The Excalibur is the 19th most powerful computer in the world. About 50 officials gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Department of Defense Supercomputing Resource Center.

Increased computational capabilities will allow researchers bring improved communications, data and intelligence to Soldiers in the field, said Maj. Gen. John F. Wharton, commanding general of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.

Army researchers extend missile system shelf life

Due to the success of an Army inspection program, the average shelf life for missile systems has been extended from 7.9 to 22.6 years. Here, an Air Defense Artillery Patriot missile blazes forth from a remote launch site at McGregor Range, New Mexico, Dec. 8, 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nathan Akridge)

AMRDEC Public Affairs

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Oct. 13, 2015) — As consumers, many of our items contain a “use by” or “best before” date. In the aviation and missile community, the same principle applies to its weaponry arsenal.

The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, or AMRDEC, in conjunction with Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, or PEO MS, and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command, has designed a program to determine if missiles can be used past their initial shelf life.

AMRDEC, one of six U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command centers, executes this program within its Engineering Directorate.

“This program tests missiles to make sure they are still safe and reliable as the system ages,” said Megan Shumate, AMRDEC general engineer. “All missiles have an initial shelf life from the date of manufacture. The Stockpile Reliability Program [SRP] evaluates the missiles as they approach their shelf life expiration to see if we can extend the useful life of system to make the Army’s return on investment greater.”

The SRP is the sole mechanism for assuring the continued safety, reliability, performance and availability of the U.S. Army missile inventory per Army Regulations 702–6 and 740–1. AMRDEC, PEO MS and Army Aviation and Missile Command, or AMCOM, collaborate to plan, execute and manage the SRP for all U.S. Army missile systems. Continue reading

Scarf-like mask can protect at a moment’s notice

Army researchers have developed a simple, comfortable wrap styled respiratory protective mask for protection against riot control agents. (U.S. Army photo)

ECBC Public Affairs

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Oct. 20, 2015) — Army researchers have developed a simple, comfortable wrap-style respiratory protective mask for protection against riot control agents. The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, known as ECBC, is making it as a simple as putting on a surgical mask.

ECBC researchers Dave Caretti, Dan Barker, and Doug Wilke, developed the idea for the solution from specialized operators who expressed a need for a protective mask to protect against riot control agents such as 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, also known as CS, or tear gas.

The operators also wanted a mask that could protect users who have beards, or must operate with other unique head-borne equipment.

Currently, users wear a traditional full general protective mask when disseminating riot agent. This mask is a hard material and the user must remove any existing equipment on their face in order to put it on. This process can take time that operators might not have during emergency situations.

“The solution we envisioned would easily integrate with the user’s helmet, communications headphones and protective eyewear, so that it could provide a simple solution for all users,” Caretti said.

Members of law enforcement who use CS and other riot control agents could also use this type of mask when necessary and avoid wasting time with a traditional full face piece respirator that requires the removal of protective helmets and other head-borne items.

In order to begin work on this proposed solution, Caretti, Barker and Wilke entered their proposal for the mask they called the “Integrated Respiratory and Eye Protective Scarf,” or IREPS to to the research center’s Internal Innovative Development of Employee Advanced Solutions Program. Continue reading

Ground combat system upgrades focus on weight, lethality

Soldiers, of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, tactically move a Stryker over the Mojave Desert during Decisive Action Rotation 15–10 at the National Training Center on Fort Irwin, Calif., Sept. 24, 2015. The Stryker and other ground combat vehicles are undergoing a number of upgrades, according to officials.

By Elizabeth M. Collins, Soldiers

WASHINGTON (Oct. 20, 2015) — Ground combat vehicle modernization efforts are moving forward, on schedule and under budget, the ground combat systems program executive officer told reporters last week.

Designs and engineering change proposals for existing vehicles have been largely finished, contracts are being awarded and some vehicles are being delivered and tested, said GCS PEO Brig. Gen. David Bassett.

“It’s a really exciting time,” he said. There’s “plenty to keep us busy, new requirements emerging, and really great partnerships on how we can tailor the acquisition process, look hard at appropriate requirements, help our user understand what those requirements cost and make meaningful trade offs between desired capabilities.”

The Stryker, for example, is undergoing a lethality upgrade that will include better turret fire control and advanced sensors and cannon systems for the Germany-based 2nd Calvary Regiment.

Continue reading

Army-defined open standards pave the way for RF convergence

By Kashia Simmons & Kelly White, CERDEC Public Affairs

MORA provides the fundamental building blocks to enable the future force to dominate the electromagnetic spectrum and to be lighter and more agile in adapting to emerging threats. (U.S. Army illustration)

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (October 20, 2015) — The Army’s first of its kind modular, open system architecture is setting the stage for the future of hardware and software convergence after months of development from the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC.

The Modular Open Radio Frequency Architecture, or MORA, will open radio frequency interfaces to enable rapid insertion of new capabilities and broader interoperability as well as reduce size, weight and power, or SWaP, for future ground vehicles.

“One thing we know about the future is that we don’t know what the future holds,” said Ben Peddicord, chief, CERDECIntelligence and Information Warfare Directorate’s Intel Technology and Architecture Branch. “The interfaces that have been exposed to MORA were chosen based on an analysis of the capabilities we’ve wanted to field over the last 15 years.”

Compared to a traditional radio solution, MORA provides the system integrator with greater flexibility when addressing technical challenges and the ability to insert third-party capabilities.

According to Peddicord, nearly all military platforms — to include Soldiers — have RF devices on them, making MORA an important element of hardware and software convergence because of its ability to share hardware assets across the platform.

Natick researcher collaborates with North Carolina State on textile technologies

Researchers say Soldiers will have extra power capabilities built into the uniform, with no added weight penalty. Here, Spc. Travis Williams, a grenadier with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, looks through the the sights of his M320 grenade launcher March 24, 2013, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

By Jane Benson, NSRDEC Public Affairs

NATICK, Mass. (Oct. 15, 2015) — Army researchers are partnering with universities to improve Soldier capabilities and protection.

At the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC, senior research biologist Kris Senecal collaborates withNorth Carolina State University, which has resulted in the development of nonwoven, multifunctional materials. Senecal partnered with NC State’s Nonwovens Institute, or NWI.

Natick researcher Kris Senecal collaborates with North Carolina State University to develop nonwoven, multifunctional materials. In a separate effort, she is working with the NC State Nanotechnology Initiative, to develop textile coatings to increase capabilities on existing fabric systems. (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm)

In a separate effort, Senecal is developing novel textile coatings using atomic layer deposition, or ALD, with Dr. Gregory Parsons, director of the NC State Nanotechnology Initiative. Continue reading

Army, commercial fleet partnership comes to Detroit Arsenal

Army and civilian engineers exchanged information on future military and commercial vehicle capabilities at a Detroit forum, Sept. 30, 2015. (U.S. Army illustration by James Scott)

By Douglas Halleaux, TARDEC Public Affairs

DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. (Oct. 7, 2015) — Representatives of the national leadership for the High-Efficiency Truck Users Forum, or HTUF, visited the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC, Sept. 30, 2015, to exchange information on the newest military and commercial vehicle capabilities.

The forum is in its 14th year, and this is the first time the meeting is being held at TARDEC. HTUF is a program managed and funded mostly by TARDEC’s National Automotive Center, or NAC.

A private organization known as CALSTART, which is dedicated to the growth of clean transportation technologies industry, has operated the program since its inception. It brings fleets, truck original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs, suppliers and other industry stakeholders together to ensure future product offerings are capable of meeting high-efficiency military needs.

HTUF includes OEMs and their major suppliers that market both military and commercial products with common technologies. The members envisioned this meeting to be a catalyst for making change happen in the high-efficiency truck and bus arena.

“HTUF is focused on driving high-efficiency technology adoption in medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that support military and commercial requirements,” said Bill Van Amburg, CALSTART Senior Vice President.

Drones swarm U.S. Army’s Network Integration Evaluation

By John Hamilton

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (Sept. 30, 2015) — In this season’sNetwork Integration Evaluation, or NIE, taking place on White Sands Missile Range, or WSMR, and Fort Bliss, Texas, coordinated units of remotely-operated and automated aircraft will be used to represent a possible threat on tomorrow’s battlefields.

Members of the Targets Management Office with U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation Training and Instrumentation, or PEO STRI, are using off-the-shelf quad and octocopters and flying them in groups. The endeavor is part of an U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, or ATEC, program to study possible use, effectiveness and countermeasures for the deployment of large numbers of synchronized drone aircraft.

“ATEC is our customer, they tasked us to come out and look at swarming, the variations and the payloads we can apply to this,” said James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, PEO STRI. “We saw this as a threat that wasn’t being addressed and ATEC agreed.”

While drones are seeing expanded use, with many different countries building, deploying, and selling large airplane-sized drones for military purposes, small-scale drones are still gaining a foothold, mostly due to the technical limitations involved. That technology is expected to improve, and the small-scale drone become more viable as a possible weapon, and it’s that preparation for the future that is driving the swarming project.

“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” Story said. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”