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Archive for the ‘Disruptive Tech’ Category

Seeing the light: LiFi will revolutionize IT on mission command posts

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

NATICK, Mass. — When investigating new ways of transmitting and communicating information, sometimes it helps to see the light.

This is the idea behind a new technology being investigated by the Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center’s Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate, along with its industry partner, VLNComm of Charlottesville, Va.

A technology revolution that fits in the palm of your hand. The Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center’s Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate, or EMSD, has come up with a concept for using LiFi technology as a new way of transmitting and communicating information. The wireless system uses infrared light instead of radio frequencies. Since LiFi does not use radio waves, it cannot be detected outside the confines of the mission command platform. LiFi is un-hackable and untraceable within the command post shelter. EMSD is working with its industry partner, VLNComm of Charlottesville, Va., on adapting the technology to meet enclosed mission command platform needs. The transceiver (pictured here) is simply put into a USB port and will then detect the signal and users will be hooked up to the IT network of their command post. Then a Soldier just needs a light shined overhead to have network access. (Photo is courtesy of the RDECOM Soldier Center Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate)

“It’s a wireless system but instead of using radio frequencies it uses infrared light,” said Frank Murphy, an engineer on EMSD’s System Development and Engineering Team. “It is called LiFi, or light fidelity. It has many advantages.”

Murphy has been investigating ways to utilize the emerging commercially available technology in a tactical environment as the physical characteristics appear to solve many issues facing wired and wireless field command post network systems.

The technology will be used in expeditionary mission commands. EMSD has come up with a concept for using LiFi within any enclosed mission command platform. LiFi eliminates the problems associated with the time-consuming task of running data lines in tactical operation centers and command posts. Moreover, since the technology does not use radio waves, it cannot be detected outside the confines of the mission command platform.

“The technology uses light waves to transmit and receive data between the servers and the user’s computer,” said Melvin Jee, the leader of EMSD’s Command Post Platforms Branch. “As light cannot pass through walls, the enemy cannot detect the signal.”

Murphy’s investigation into the technology was inspired in part by Douglas Tamilio, the director of RDECOM Soldier Center, sharing an article about LiFi with RDECOM Soldier Center leadership. Murphy’s investigation was also inspired by the vision of Claudia Quigley, the director of EMSD, and the RDECOM Soldier Center’s ongoing partnership with the 82nd Airborne. The RDECOM Soldier Center and the 82nd Airborne have worked together extensively to find out ways to best meet the needs of warfighters.

Murphy explained that Quigley and other members of the directorate were working with the 82nd Airborne during a field exercise. During the exercise, Murphy noticed that the setup of IT cabling was proving to be a time-consuming and difficult task.

“They had a hard time setting up their IT network, which isn’t usually an NSRDEC area, but we felt that we could address the need,” said Murphy. “Tactical speed is absolutely essential for command post setup. LiFi is potentially faster, easier to install and doesn’t have the security and exposure issues of other technologies. LiFi is un-hackable and untraceable when used within the command post shelter.”

“It’s virtually impossible to find the wavelength the data is being transmitted on, so if LiFi is detected, it’s hard to intercept the data stream,” said Jee.

EMSD is working with industry partners. Murphy explained that the commercially available technology was modified to fit a tactical environment. The technology will affect how Soldiers communicate and, thus, carry out a mission.

“A command post of any size is an information processing center,” said Murphy, “They take information from the field whether it comes in from a drone, Soldier/squad reports, other personnel in the area, satellite information, information from wheeled vehicles, or from behind the front lines — all this information gets fed to the command post staff. They make a decision and then the information goes right back out. Lives depend on this communication.”

“LiFi is part of NSRDEC’s plan to provide a fully integrated platform with all of the necessary infrastructure in order for the warfighter to set up his command post,” said Jee. “Just as a house is fully integrated with power, lights and network cabling — allowing the homeowners to just concentrate on the furnishings — NSRDEC plans to provide a fully functional house, allowing the warfighter and program managers to provide the “furniture.'”

“In a command post, everyone has a job to do and they have their information chain,” said Murphy.

“All these Soldiers need network access. With this, you simply shine the light over their head. After you hook the transceiver into the USB port, the transceiver will detect the signal and you will be hooked up to the IT network of your command post. It’s as simple as that. We also hope to have it integrated into the wiring harness for the lighting so we can just roll up the tent and pack it away during a move.”

Murphy emphasized that the NSRDEC project is really a team effort and that several entities at the Natick Soldier Systems Center were important to the development of the technology. He also received “great guidance” from his branch chief, Melvin Jee, and from his team leader, Connie Miles-Patrick, System Development and Engineering Team, as well as the DREN team and people in the Natick Contracting Division.

He also credited the use of the Base Camp Integration Lab, or BCIL, which was created by and is expertly run by, Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems. A first-generation Li-Fi system prototype was recently set up at the BCIL and successfully demonstrated the capability to send and receive data using the BCIL’s IT network.

“The people at the BCIL were incredible,” said Murphy. “They gave us the perfect platform to showcase the tactical capabilities of this device. This project really showcases what Natick is all about. The Natick team dove in with both feet. Great things happen when people believe in each other and in an idea. We all want to help the Soldier.”

Murphy believes that LiFi is truly the wave of the future.

“The demand for data inside the command post is only going to continue to increase,” said Murphy, “So data quantity and quality need to improve to meet this demand. This technology can be hooked up permanently in rigid wall mission command platforms, but it can be used anywhere. We will be bringing world-class communications, security, speed and capability to the frontline Soldier. Information in the field is a weapon. This technology will help the warfighter make better decisions and be more effective and lethal in the field. This changes everything in the IT network system. It’s a game changer.”

By Ms. Jane Benson (RDECOM)

Rapid Equipping Force’s Afghanistan Ex Lab Transforms Soldiers’ Ideas Into Reality

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — At Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, there is a place that wants to know about your tactical problems.

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The forward team of the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force or REF, wants Soldiers to bring their ideas regarding equipment on how to accomplish their missions more efficiently.

REF’s mission is to provide innovative materiel solutions to meet the urgent requirements of U.S. Army forces employed globally, inform materiel development for the future force, and on order, expand to meet the operational demands. Its focus is on immediate-need materiel solutions at the small-unit level.

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“We try to paint that picture for them that you know there’s a lot of capabilities that reside in this building, in the organization,” said Lt. Col. Scott Cantlon, REF forward team chief.

Cantlon is not new to this position as he has also spent time as the REF Forward Team chief in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan for periods in 2016 and 2017.

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“If you need something here and now and rapidly produced, if you have an idea ,a problem, and you think you have a solution in your head, you can sit down and talk with our engineers and there’s a good chance they’re going to be able to design something,” Cantlon said. “Not only design it, but prototype it, and give it to you for some operational feedback.”

The REF team in Bagram offers the capability of rapid prototyping through the Expeditionary Lab or Ex Lab.

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The engineers in the Ex Lab are capable of taking a Soldier’s concern, and if feasible, fabricating the solution through 3D printing, sewing, machining, or electrical work.

“Three-Dimensional printing has come a long way in the last 10 to 15 years. Today we have 3D printers where you can drop a design on a computer, hit print, and the next morning have a full made-out part that is of the same quality as a machine part in term of tolerance and the cavities (compartments) it can do,” said Dr. Patrick Fowler, former lead engineer of the Ex Lab, who redeployed back to the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, in late October.

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“And in fact, it exceeds what you can do with a machine because you can create spaces that you would never be able to reach with a tool,” Fowler said.

Fowler has a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees all in mechanical engineering. Fowler volunteered for this deployment — his first — to fulfill a lifelong dream of serving in his own way with Warfighters.

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“This is the only job that I’m aware where an engineer can get a requirement directly from the Warfighter and give them something that goes out the next day on a mission and immediately get feedback, and be able to keep the Warfighter in the design loop,” Fowler said.

The Ex Lab is equipped with design software and other limited metal bending capability among other things.

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And depending on what it is, these new products can be made in limited quantities to equip Soldiers.

“We make things that have never been made before to respond to a tactical gap,” Fowler said.

“If you can imagine it, then we can make it for you,” he said. “The capabilities that we have here are broad ranging even though we use a lot of 3D printing, we can do traditional metal parts, we can do electronics fabrication, we can do programming, there’s a lot of capability here.”

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The REF, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, started in 2002 after Soldiers realized the need for non-standard equipment to meet the demands of their wartime mission.

The Ex Lab has reachback ties with the RDECOM for its expertise and additional manufacturing capabilities.

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The REF is the Army’s quick-reaction capability for getting urgent material solutions in the hands of Warfighters. It’s able to do this using a request document known as “10-Liner”, where Soldiers capture the requirements and submit.

Sometimes, the need is met with commercial and government off-the-shelf technologies. But when not available and if approved, the engineers will design and fabricate a solution to meet a Soldier’s needs.

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“The work out here, the things we do, it’s very rewarding,” said Ryan Muzii, a support engineer with the Ex lab. “We can do things no other organization can do. A Warfighter can come in with a problem and we can get after it. It’s just such a great asset.”

Muzii has nine years total working for the REF’s reachback support element, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division, whose headquarters is at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. He also has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in mathematics.

As of November, Muzii will have been deployed two years to Afghanistan in support of the Ex Lab.

The time to procure and deliver nonstandard equipment. REF’s goal is to fill a requirement within 180 days.

The Ex Lab typically produces a solution in less than 30 days…sometimes in a few days depending on the requirement.

Locations and manning requirements for the REF have varied during the last 16 years based on the missions and number of personnel in theater. The REF also has forward teams in Kuwait and Iraq.

Since 2002, many new technologies have been equipped to help accomplish the mission more efficiently. Current projects include persistent duration unmanned aerial systems, electronic warfare, unmanned and counter-unmanned aerial systems, expeditionary force protection and so much more.

“Honestly, practically all these projects [we do here] someone walks in on I never would have thought. I have no prior military experience … I’ve always been an engineer,” Muzii said.

“Some of the things they (Soldiers) come up with are so innovative and creative, but not reliable, you know, it’s kind of thrown together,” he said. “But a lot of times people make it work; I mean we’re the U.S. Army, we make it work.”

On January 30, 2014, the Army declared the REF an enduring capability. It now reports to the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command where it will continue to support Soldiers deployed globally for years to come.

“Hey, you have this asset at your disposal. It doesn’t matter what rank you are,” said Muzii. “It doesn’t matter where you are in the CJOA-A — Combined Joint Operations Area-Afghanistan — we will come to you. It doesn’t matter how big or small your problem is, as we can help you.”

In Afghanistan, contact the REF and Ex Lab at:
DSN Unclassified:
(318) 481-6293
DSN Classified:
(308) 431-5012

Story and photos by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs (Select photos courtesy of REF PAO)

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Awards Protect The Force for Development of Photovoltaic Energy Harvesting Fabrics for First Responders

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

An Award Through the Silicon Valley Innovation Program Under the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate

Protect The Force Inc., a leader in design and technology for military, law enforcement, fire and rescue, has received an award to develop photovoltaic energy harvesting fabrics from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T).

In what is the first award under the DHS S&T’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program’s (SVIP’s). Energy Harvesting Fabrics solicitation, Protect The Force will provide a proof-of-concept of a photovoltaic fiber that can be woven into an energy harvesting fabric. The fabric would be used in first responder garments with a goal to provide reliable power for charging batteries or power electronics.  The award is for the first phase of a four-phase program and is valued at $199,260.

The goal of the Energy Harvesting Fabrics solicitation is to seek new fiber technology that can be integrated into first responder uniforms, such as daily use uniforms, with the ability to charge radios, sensors and other electronics worn on the frontlines by police officers, medical personnel. The scope of the call also includes wildland firefighter uniforms that can withstand the extreme conditions of wildfires and structural firefighter gear used when responding to building fires.

Protect The Force will work closely with Dr. Ramaswamy Nagarajan, Professor at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell (UML), utilizing UML’s recently unveiled Fabric Discovery Center (FDC) facilities and with Tweave LLC to execute on this first phase of the project. UML- FDC acknowledges the support from the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2) that provided the funding for the acquisition of equipment that will be used in the fabrication of the photovoltaic fibers. UML-FDC also acknowledges Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), NEXTFLEX and Advanced Robotics Manufacturing (ARM) USA Institutes.

“We are honored to be the recipients of this award from the prestigious DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program,” stated Francisco J. Martinez, Protect The Force Chief Technology Officer.

“We would like to thank Dr. Nagarajan and Ms. Claire Lepont at UML-FDC for their relentless efforts in developing a winning proposal. We also appreciate the support of Tweave LLC’s General Manager Ms. Mary Reardon, as a key player in the project. We now look forward to the kick-off and execution of this project and to developing a potentially lifesaving technology to our First Responders.”

“It is estimated that the global market for energy harvesting is expected to reach $4.4 billion by 2021,” continued Mr. Martinez.  “With defense being the second most significant area of application, this segment is expected to reach approximately $845 million by 2019. The US Army is increasingly using energy harvesting in wearable devices.  First responders are also growing their use and need for equipment to aid communications, awareness, safety and improved technical ability in emergencies.”

“Our success in this program creates a great opportunity not only for our work with first responders and DHS, but for developing energy harvesting fabrics for the consumer market place including the outdoor industry, geo-textiles, marine industry and other markets,” concluded Mr. Martinez.

Trey Knight Asks You to Change His Mind

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

SOFWERX Forming SOF/Service/OGA Council for Innovation and Agile Acquisitions

Monday, September 10th, 2018

SSD readers are innovators and a quite a few of you currently serve in a variety of roles. SOFWERX is looking for innovators and is forming a council at their facility in Tampa, Florida, consisting of SOF, Military Service and OGA representatives.

The purpose is to increase and accelerate capabilities to the warfighter using agile acquisition processes and the SOFWERX platform:
• Cross leveraging networks & expertise to find best of breed and buy down risk
• Creating non-traditional technology opportunities
• Generating efficiencies through leveraged funding
• Applying flexible business methodologies
• Advancing cross cutting, high yield capabilities

For additional information visit www.sofwerx.org/council.

Proliferation of Drones Posing Risk for US Military, Army Expert Says

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

WASHINGTON — As of January 2018, over 1 million micro drones were registered with the Federal Aviation Administration, with about 878,000 of those registered to hobbyists, said Dr. Juanita Christensen.

These micro drones are proliferating in other nations as well, including areas in every combatant command where U.S. forces are stationed or operating, she added.

Christensen, executive director of the Aviation and Missile, Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, spoke at the Institute for Defense & Government Advancement-sponsored Counter-UAS Summit here, Aug. 23.

The growth of drone ownership poses challenges, she said, such as identifying the unmanned aerial system, determining whether or not the unmanned aerial system is friend or foe, and, if foe, employing the right countermeasures.

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The U.S. Army is at the forefront of identifying and mitigating threats from unmanned aerial systems, including identifying the UAS, determining whether or not the unmanned aerial system is friend or foe, and, if foe, employing the right countermeasures. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo David Vergun)

UAS IDENTIFICATION CHALLENGE

It’s not just the sheer number of drones that is an issue, but also the the hundreds of UAS variants being produced worldwide, Christensen said.

Each of these variants comes in different weights, shapes, and sizes. Additionally, each has different operating characteristics such as speed, flight duration, maneuverability and payload capacity. These variations make tracking them difficult because it’s hard for radars and other surveillance systems to identify exactly what’s out there, she said.

Another reason why it’s hard to identify UASs, she said, is that many are very small and therefore have a minuscule radar signature. Additionally, some of these UAS fly very low to the ground, away from a radar’s line of sight. They also move relatively slowly, similar to the flight of a bird, and they produce very little acoustic, infrared, radio frequency, or electromagnetic signatures.

Current military radars and surveillance sensors may categorize class 1 and 2 UASs as “clutter,” and not identify them as UAS, she said, explaining that class 1 and 2 consist of micro and mini UAS, respectively. These are the UAS systems commercially available to anyone.

The second challenge is determining whether or not the UAS is being flown by a hobbyist or commercial entity for benign reasons, or by someone bent on causing harm, she said.

Any number of payloads can be placed on a UAS and they can also be used for surveillance, Christensen added, declining to get more specific for security reasons.

This identification problem is especially acute because operators often have to determine friend from foe and what action to take in just a matter of seconds.

UAS COUNTERMEASURES CHALLENGE

RDECOM has recognized the importance of countering UAS for some time now, Christensen said.

In January 2014, RDECOM stood up the Counter-UAS Community of Practice. That community coordinates counter-UAS research with all of the labs across the Army and the other services and looks for solutions from industry and academia, she said.

For example, the Army Research Laboratory, which falls under RDECOM, is working with the community to study how to defeat swarms of enemy UASs, she said. And, the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, also in RDECOM, is testing electronic countermeasures.

The community also is working with industry and academia to open new lines of effort, such as applying machine learning and artificial intelligence that will enable faster processing of data so that countermeasures can be taken much more quickly and with greater accuracy, she said.

The community is focused on class 1, 2 and 3 UAS threats, she said, explaining that class 3 consists of low-end tactical UAS. The other classes, 4 and 5, are high-end tactical and strategic UASs, respectively, that fly high and for long durations and are in the Air Force’s area of responsibility.

There are many promising lines of effort to deter a threatening UAS, she said, such as kinetic; passive, such as shooting a missile at the UAS that contains a net that deploys to take it down intact; sensitive sensors that can detect the UAS’s signatures emitted; and various types of jamming devices.

Besides going after the UAS itself, there are other efforts underway to defeat the “kill chain aspect,” she said, meaning eliminating the enemy UAS operator and the network behind it.

By David Vergun, Army News Service

PITBULL, A Wearable UAS Jammer From MyDefense

Monday, August 27th, 2018

Designed to be used in conjunction with the MyDefense WINGMAN series of drone detectors, the PITBULL jammer works against commercially available Unmanned Aerial Systems which have been adopted by threat forces due to their widespread availability. These UAS are used for reconnaissance, and with simple modifications, can be turned into smart weapons, utilizing terminal guidance or preplanned flight routes.

It will function either autonomously (when drones are detected by the WINGMAN) or manually (constant jamming), and the internal directional antennas cover the 2.4GHz, 5.8GHz and GNSS frequency bands. With its directional antennas, the PITBULL is capable of jamming a malicious drone at the distance of 1000 meters. An external active antenna will be made available to cover additional frequency bands.

Additionally, it can be mounted to PALS platforms.

Technical Specs:
Weight: 775 grams
Dimensions (D x W x H): 60x90x165mm (2.36 x 3.54 x 6.50 inch)
Battery (standby): >20 hours
Battery (continuous jamming): 2 hours
External battery: AN/PRC-148 and AN/PRC-152
Operating modes: Automated and Manual
Transmit power: 2W
Frequency bands: 2.4 & 5.8GHz
Internal antenna: 6 dBi antenna gain, EIRP of 8W (39dBm), Circular polarized, Half power beamwidth 60° hor. & ver.
Jamming range: 1,000 meters
Color: Black/Desert/Custom

mydefence.dk/military-customers/pitbull-counter-uas-jammer

SOFWERX – Illicit Finance Group

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

One of the most effective tools to counter transnational threats is the ability to identify and interrupt their financial networks.

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Illicit Finance (IF) is at the forefront of the international agenda. Governments, academia, and the financial services industry worldwide are joining forces to combat fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, cryptocurrency, international bribery, and human trafficking.

On Wednesday, 3 October, from 11:00 AM-1:30 PM, SOFWERX will host an Illicit Finance meeting where representatives from the Department of Defense, law enforcement, institutions of higher education, and the financial services industry come to share information and discuss joint-collaboration efforts at hand.

Those interested in participating should visit www.sofwerx.org/illicitfinance.