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research and development

RoboRoaches to the Rescue

October 21, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Swarms of cyborg cockroaches may one day aid in search and rescue, military reconnaissance and an array of other missions.

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are about to get a little bit creepier—but it's for a good cause. Research funded by the National Science Foundation could lead to swarms of the insects being used for a variety of missions, including search and rescue in collapsed buildings, military reconnaissance or hazardous chemical detection.

Scientists at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, have developed software that allows the bugs to map unknown environments based on the swarming instincts of cyborg insects, or biobots. The idea is to map areas without access to GPS navigational signals. “They are live insects, but what has been done to them is that there are small backpacks that ride right on top of them, and they have electrodes attached to their antennae and their abdomens,” explains Dr. Edgar Lobaton, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

“Signals are sent to the electrodes, and that is what makes them stop or move forward or turn to the right or left,” he explains.

Smartphones Help Push Network to
 Dismounted Soldier

November 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

The U.S. Army’s goal to push the network down to the dismounted soldier is now reality as Rangers units and the 10th Mountain Division begin employing Nett Warrior. But developers are not resting on their laurels. They already are adding advancements to increase capability and improve functionality.

Multispectral Camera
 System to Provide Soldiers
 With Enhanced Night Vision

November 1, 2013
By Henry S. Kenyon

A prototype sensor technology under development will enable soldiers to identify threats more rapidly in low-light environments and to share target images with other squad members. Consisting of several types of small multispectral cameras, the system will use smartphone technology in the form of a warfighter’s handheld mobile device to process and fuse the camera data into high-resolution color images for the soldier’s helmet display. That display imagery can then be transmitted wirelessly to other soldiers.

Fewer Conferences = Less Innovation

September 30, 2013

Industry and government personnel believe that event cancellations and travel restrictions are having a negative impact on innovation and collaboration.

Software Assists Signal Officers

September 30, 2013
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Army researchers are developing a software program that will provide signal corps officers will an improved common operating picture of the network, enhance the ability to manage the plethora of electronic systems popping up on the modern battlefield, advance information sharing capabilities and allow warfighters to make more informed and more timely decisions. In short, the system will assist in planning, building, monitoring and defending the network.

As the number of electronic devices on the modern battlefield rapidly expands, the job of the battalion and brigade signal officer, known as the S-6, grows increasingly complex. The S-6 oversees the deployment of all communications equipment. The communications officer is responsible for the supervision of all automated information systems, network management, computer network defense, electromagnetic spectrum operations and information assurance.

Sometimes, however, it is not possible for the communications officer to even know what devices, or how many, are connected to the network. And many factors, such as terrain, weather, technical difficulties and enemy activities, including jamming or cyber attacks, can disrupt the network. But the S-6 Associate software being developed at the Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CERDEC) will consolidate information on existing systems and simplify network monitoring. Among other benefits, S-6 Associate improves data sharing between systems used by the S-6 and the intelligence (S-2) and training and operations (S-3) functions.

New Cryptographic Device Destined for Drones

October 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Navy researchers are developing a state-of-the-art encryption device for integration onto KC-130 tankers and unmanned aerial systems. An existing version of the device is being installed onto B-52 bombers, E-4s, which serve as airborne command centers for the U.S. president and other National Command Authority officials, and E-6s, which are command and control centers for nuclear weapons. The encryption system can be integrated into virtually any platform and offers backward-compatible, software-definable algorithms that can be updated during operations without downtime.

It is that ability to load algorithms without downtime that researchers tout as one of the biggest benefits of the new system. “This is critical for the ability of the warfighter to be able to replace algorithms as they become obsolete. You don’t have to take a platform offline like almost every other crypto out there now,” says Stanley Chincheck, director, Center for High Assurance Computer Systems, Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Washington, D.C. “You can do that while it is up and running. That is a unique feature that many crypto devices just don’t have.”

Chincheck cannot reveal a lot of details because of security concerns, but KC-130s and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will receive the next incarnation of the Programmable Embeddable INFOSEC (Information Security) Product (PEIP, pronounced peep). The version under development is known as PEIP III. The other aircraft—B-52s, E-4s and E-6s—are receiving the current version, PEIP II.

Exploring the
 Outer Edge of
 Space Technology

October 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

NASA’s core culture is to push the boundaries of what has been to create what can be. And within this cutting-edge organization is an entire group dedicated solely to ensuring that the revolutions continue to expand. The Game Changing Development Program exists to find the disruptive technologies available in relevant fields, then move them into the proper channels for development and deployment.

Stephen Gaddis, director of the program, describes its straightforward mission saying, “We are looking for the game changers. We either transform or disrupt the way that the country, that the agency, is doing business in space. We want to have a high impact on new missions and new capabilities. In essence, we’re looking to change the way NASA does business.”

The group has even defined what they mean by the term. Gaddis explains that most people have the right philosophy to understand a game changer, but his program explicitly explains one as an orders-of-magnitude improvement over current resources. “It’s not just incremental, not just evolutionary,” he adds. “It’s revolutionary.” The work involves both creating new technologies as well as changing how processes are followed or products are made.
 

Calling All Rocket Scientists

September 18, 2013

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking ideas and technical proposals for how to best develop a fully reusable unmanned aircraft that would provide access to space faster, easier and at a lower cost than current satellite launch vehicles. According to Jess Sponable, manager of the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program, the agency aims to build on proven technologies to create a reliable, cost-effective space delivery system that can be used to launch payloads into space, return to Earth and repeat the process the next day. Technical goals include the ability to fly 10 times in 10 days achieving speeds of more than Mach 10.

Current concepts call for a reusable first stage that would fly to hypersonic speeds at a suborbital altitude then one or more expendable upper stages would separate and deploy a satellite into low-Earth orbit. The aim is to achieve this at a cost of less than $5 million per flight for 3,000- to 5,000-pound payloads. “How it’s configured, how it gets up and how it gets back are pretty much all on the table. We’re looking for the most creative yet practical solutions possible,” Sponable states.

DARPA has scheduled an XS-1 Proposers Day for October 7 and plans to hold one-on-one discussions with potential proposers on October 8. Registration for the event must be received by noon on October 1. Additional information is available via email and on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

New Systems Seek to Connect Troops at the Tip of the Spear

September 4, 2013
By Henry S. Kenyon

Two ongoing military programs, the ready-to-deploy Solider Network Extension (SNE) and the Content-Based Mobile Edge Networking (CBMEN) program now in prototype, aim to connect troops at the very tactical edge back to larger military data and communications networks. These programs—one service-oriented, the other an agency effort—are part of the Defense Department’s thrust to make warfighters, especially individual soldiers in small units, more connected.

Government Seeks New Identity Markers

September 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

 

In the next few years, usernames and passwords could gradually fade from popular use as a way to conduct business online. A public/private coalition is working on a new policy and technical framework for identity authentication that could make online transactions less dependent on these increasingly compromised identity management tools. A second round of federal grants from the group, expected this fall, will lead to continued work on what is expected to become a private sector-operated identity management industry.

“The fact is that the username and password are fundamentally broken, both from a security standpoint as well as a usability standpoint,” says Jeremy Grant, senior executive adviser for identity management with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the Department of Commerce. As a result of such security weakness, cybercrime is costing individuals and businesses billions of dollars every year. An estimated 11.7 million Americans were victims of identity theft of some kind, including online identity theft over a recent two-year period, according to NIST, the federal agency tasked with setting cybersecurity standards.

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