Technology

December 7, 2018
Posted by Julianne Simpson
Researchers injected a magnetorheological (MR) fluid into hollow lattice structures built on LLNL’s Large Area Projection Microstereolithography (LAPµSL) platform, which 3D prints objects with microscale features over wide areas using light and a photosensitive polymer resin. Photo by Julie Mancini/LLNL

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have developed a new class of metamaterials that can almost instantly respond and stiffen 3D-printed structures when exposed to a magnetic field. The development has huge implications for next-generation helmets, wearable armor and countless other innovations.

These new “field-responsive mechanical metamaterials” (FRMMs) use a vicious, magnetically responsive fluid that is manually injected into the hollow struts and beams of 3D-printed lattices. Unlike other shape-morphing materials, the structure of the FRMMs does not change.

December 1, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s (ARL’s) development of robotics technology includes the On-Demand Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or ODSUAS, which are 3D-printed. Soldiers would input requirements into mission planning software that knows the optimal configuration for an aerial vehicle, and it would be printed and delivered within 24 hours. ARL research aims to stair-step technologies that ultimately turn robots into teammates for battlefield warfighters.  Credit: ARL

Robots that will equip the future U.S. Army will progress through an academic type of development that ultimately will have them graduate with full autonomy as equal partners with soldiers on the battlefield, if the Army Research Laboratory has its way. This learning regimen will allow them to grow into their roles as they mature from teleoperated machines to guided apprentices on their way to fully skilled battlefield operators that are teammates with warfighters.

December 1, 2018
By George I. Seffers
A smart skin technology for robots or prosthetics developed by researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington is undergoing testing with three companies and could soon be ready for fielding.  Courtesy University of Texas at Arlington

A research team at the University of Texas at Arlington may one day cover robots and prosthetic devices with nanotechnology skin to provide them with a sense of touch far superior to humans.

A sense of touch could allow for greater precision and control. A robot needs to know, for example, how much pressure to apply when picking up an elderly patient from a bed, an airplane engine from a factory floor, or a glass of champagne from a tabletop.

December 1, 2018
By George I. Seffers
Atoms are the building blocks for molecules. Scientists theorize that someday robots made of atoms may build a wide range of products at the molecular level.  Anusom Nakdee/Shutterstock

In the decades to come, the U.S. military may manufacture combat parts and supplies on the battlefield using robots made of molecules all working together as part of a molecular factory. The nanoscale factories could revolutionize military logistics by eliminating the need to transport or store parts and supplies for every possible contingency. The same technology may prove useful for tying together strands of molecules for superstrong, lightweight armor.

December 1, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
The U.S. Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Modular Autonomous Vehicle (EMAV) is a versatile, fully autonomous ground vehicle designed to provide tactical-scale infantry support at the platoon level.  U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Lab

The novelty of a robot joining warfighters on the battlefield has worn off, and the U.S. Marines are settling in to make their use of autonomous systems more effective. The service cannot afford to have robots that hinder operations, an expert says.

The Science and Technology Division of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory is considering robotic systems that lighten cognitive or physical burdens for Marines. Researchers are advancing robotic or autonomous machines not just for the infantry but for medical and logistics units as well.

December 1, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
Hoisting a recumbent bike onto the back of a motor vehicle is made easier by a hydraulic device developed by engineering students at the Colorado School of Mines. A Navy veteran who participates in bike races can now get to more competitions thanks to the system built for him in a QL+ project.  QL+ photo

University engineering students across the country are plying their skills to address challenges for disabled veterans suffering from the loss of physical capabilities. Students apply mechanical solutions in a program called Quality of Life Plus to supply the missing link for a better quality of life after those who have served have been successfully treated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

December 1, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
With fewer techniques to map and maneuver than aerial robots, underwater robots have to rely on advanced sonar sensors and other tools, such as multibeam sonar processing and virtual occupancy grid mapping, says Carnegie Mellon University professor Michael Kaess.  Carnegie Mellon University/Michael Henninger

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science in Pittsburgh are examining how to create systems that can perform autonomously underwater and provide a clearer view of the subsurface environment. Such capabilities offer important applications to the U.S. services, the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines Corps, as well as to the commercial shipping industry for ship and harbor inspections, among other activities.

December 1, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s (NRL’s) work on adjusting how artificial neural networks learn aims to improve the manipulation capabilities of robots.  ktsdesign/Shutterstock

YouTube videos of robots running and jumping can be pretty persuasive as to what autonomous technologies can do. However, there is a large gap between robots’ locomotion and their ability to handle and move objects in their environment. Programs at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are examining how to close this capability gap and improve the functionality of robots and other autonomous systems.

Autonomous capabilities have advanced, especially in the last 10 years, but robots still have a hard time performing ad hoc motions, particularly manipulative movements using a robotic arm or hand, says Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) roboticist Glen Henshaw.

December 1, 2018
By Maj. Michael L. Hefti, USA, and Lt. Col. Christopher D. L’Heureux, USA
2nd Cavalry Regiment Strykers conduct a road march over more than 2,100 miles from Germany to Lithuania. The integrated tactical network helps mission command on the go.  Lt. Col. Christopher L’Heureux, USA

The current process for mission command modernization is not keeping pace with technology, which will dramatically impact the future battlefield. Despite massive technological advancements, the U.S. Army continues to struggle with the upper tactical internet. The service’s current technology fails to provide a near instantaneous, resilient, on-the-move communication capability and is at risk of being outpaced by both industry and potential adversaries.

December 1, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
The NRL is looking for a transition partner for MERLIN that wants to develop and possibly field small quadruped robots.  NRL

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s (NRL’s) work on its Meso-scale Robotic Locomotion Initiative, known as MERLIN, is advancing, reports NRL roboticist Glen Henshaw. The shoebox-size quadruped robot, meant to weigh in at 10 kilograms (22 pounds), features hydraulic-based legs for running, jumping or climbing—to navigate environments too complicated for tracked or wheeled robots.

And after several years of development, MERLIN is almost walking, Henshaw says.

December 1, 2018
By Terry Halvorsen

It is hard to believe that a full year has passed and this is my final column for SIGNAL. I have greatly enjoyed writing these pieces, and I thank AFCEA for this opportunity. I have enjoyed and been enlightened by your feedback—good and bad—and I very much appreciated many of the discussions that happened because of these columns. I would like to use this final column as a summary and a reminder of what I believe is coming with technology and with some social issues.

December 1, 2018
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

The past three decades have seen technologies rapidly transform the face of society. Robots, coupled with artificial intelligence, machine learning and other developing capabilities such as the Internet of Things (IoT), are among the latest technologies to offer the promise of labor-saving capabilities, improved efficiency in manufacturing, better precision in the medical field and enhanced capabilities in national security, to name just a few applications.

Novermber 20, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
Bill Moore, founder of Xona Systems, hears the announcement that the judges in AFCEA International’s Innovation Shark Tank Series have selected Xona as a finalist. The company offers cybersecurity measures for so-called Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices. Credit: Elizabeth Moon

Broadcast on CyberSecurity TV by TV Worldwide, the latest episode of AFCEA’s Innovation Shark Tank Series on November 19 featured five companies offering government solutions addressing cybersecurity, the STEM workforce, cloud migration, security of Industrial Internet of Things devices and mobile application development.

The companies were competing for selection to the association’s Shark Tank finals to be held April 22-24, 2019, at its planned joint homeland security conference with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.

November 20, 2018
 

Close air support, or “CAS,” refers to air action that assists friendly forces on the ground. It may sound hard to believe, but the technology behind CAS hasn’t changed that much since World War II, when ground forces used smoke to show pilots their location.

The story of CAS revolves around two key players: the warfighter on the ground and the pilot flying a mission. The warfighter on the ground, often known as the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), is charged with directing the pilot to a specified mission target. Ed Priest, a member of the Viasat team, served as a JTAC in the U.S. Air Force for 25 years. He now works on supplying JTACs and pilots a better communications tool to coordinate mission strikes.

November 1, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
Hypersonic vehicles, such as this concept craft from Lockheed Martin, are a significant part of the U.S. Defense Department’s modernization thrust.  Lockheed Martin

A U.S. military that has dropped its guard on advanced technology development must now steel itself to catch up to and overtake peer rivals that have capitalized on U.S. complacency to surge ahead in defense research and development. Taking back the initiative and restoring U.S. military supremacy will require rapid advances in space-based lasers, cyber countermeasures and hypersonic attack vehicles. And linking these systems will require communications capabilities that establish and maintain spectrum dominance.

October 31, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
Airbus' SpaceDataHighway system, which the company refers to as the world’s first ‘optical fibre in the sky’ employs laser communications technology, a rising capability. Credit: Airbus

An alternative to radio frequency-based communications, laser communications, or optic-based technologies, are emerging as another tool for warfighters.
 
Stakeholders across the laser communications sector have formed an industry group, known as the Laser Communications Coalition. At the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and AFCEA International’s MILCOM conference in Los Angeles on October 30, some stakeholders shared their view of the technology and market outlook for their optic-based communications equipment or services.
 

November 1, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
Daniel Leithinger, assistant professor at the ATLAS Institute and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, suggests that advanced computer interfaces can allow users to touch, grasp and deform data physically, transforming computer and human interaction.  MIT Media Lab

Researchers envision a day when shape-shifting materials, novel sensors and other interactive technologies replace the flat, insipid computer screen. Such advances will allow users to interact in a tactile manner, enhancing their understanding of information and data. Researchers on the cutting edge of human-computer interaction are working on physical representations of data or information. Computer scientists portend that computers can, and should, have an output of information that mirrors the adroitness and expressiveness of the human body.

November 1, 2018
By Maj. Ryan Kenny, USA

While the U.S. Defense Department struggles to connect tactical and strategic networks, industry has cracked the interoperability code. Commercial pressure to develop a digital ecosystem where any device delivers content across platforms and service providers has led to robust industry standards and intuitive application programming interfaces.

Increased interoperability and access, however, bring increased risk, which discourages the bridging of networks and enterprise services. Innovators must face these fears head-on. Strategic-tactical network integration requires a plan for analyzing risk, employing control measures, developing operating procedures and training across organizations.

November 1, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman

Congress has increased emphasis on more rapid prototyping, including prototyping up through operational capability and more rapid acquisition. This focus will redefine how the U.S. Defense Department works with other parts of the government as well as with industry and academia, notes Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. The answers may lie in maximizing the innovative nature of researchers by clearing away the underbrush impeding their progress.

October 26, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
John Jacob (l), senior vice president of sales and marketing for NextgenID, shares the winner’s table with JarMarcus King, chief operations officer, J&F Alliance Group, after their two firms’ technologies prevailed in the AFCEA innovation shark tank competition held October 25. Credit: Elizabeth Moon

Technology that allows easy renewal of CAC identification and a system to provide full virtual reality training on goggles prevailed in the premier AFCEA innovation shark tank of fiscal year 2019. Held October 25, the competition featured the first tie in an elimination round since the shark tanks began running earlier in 2018. Both technologies will advance to the final competition, which will be held in April 2019.

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