• Collaboration leads to new rocket propulsion technology

    A team of Army researchers developed a new gel-propellant engine called the vortex engine. (Photo Credit: AMRDEC)

    By Tracie Dean, U.S. Army Research Laboratory

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Aug. 5, 2013) — A team of Army researchers developed a new gel-propellant engine called the vortex engine.

    Michael Nusca, Ph.D., Robert Michaels and Nathan Mathis were recently recognized by the Department of the Army with a 2012 Army Research and Development Outstanding Collaboration Award, or RDA, for their work titled, “Use of Computational Fluid Dynamics in the Development and Testing of Controllable Thrust Gel Bipropellant Rocket Engines for Tactical Missiles.”

    Nusca, a researcher in Army Research Laboratory, or ARL’s, Propulsion Science Branch at Aberdeen Proving Ground, explained the new technology.

    “Gelled, hypergolic propellants are swirled with the combustion chamber to promote mixing and combustion,” Nusca said. “Traditionally, Army missiles used on the battlefield utilize solid propellant in the rocket engine. These engines require an ignition source and once initiated cannot be throttled without special hardware, both of which add weight to the engine. Liquid hypergolic propellants ignite on contact without an igniter and the engine can be throttled by regulating the propellant flow. In addition, if the propellants are gelled, the storage tanks have been shown to be insensitive to attack, unlike liquids that can explode when the container is punctured.”

    This new engine was developed with Michaels and Mathis, both researchers at the Aviation Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, which is one of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s, or AMRDEC, elements located at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

    “At AMRDEC, the propellants, injection systems and engines were developed and test fired, while at ARL the physics of propellant injection, combustion and engine operation were modeled using supercomputers,” Nusca said. This modeling included both current engine and fuel designs as well as proposals for design alternatives aimed at enhanced performance. The synergism of research between the two labs proved the technology worked according to design.”

    “This award recognized the cooperative effort between the ARL-WMRD, or Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, and the AMRDEC-WDI, or Weapons Development and Integration, in maturing a new rocket engine technology for Army tactical missiles.”

    Commenting on the impact this body of work could have on the operational Army, Nusca said, “This technology has the potential for game-changing impacts on the future of small, selectable thrust rocket engines for Army tactical missiles, as the main propulsion system, as well as strategic missiles as a course correction system. AMRDEC and the Program Executive Officer for Missiles and Space have direct uses for this technology.”

    The primary use and application of this technology has been on the battlefield.

    “Eventually the Soldier will have access to a tactical missile on the battlefield that can be used for a variety of missions due to the selectable thrust capability,” Nusca said.

    Nusca believes this technology has other applications that will also produce significant results for missile systems.

    “The next step for this type of technology would be a full-scale flight test of the vortex engine at AMRDEC for a particular missile system. This test would extend the successful engine test-stand firings and computer modeling and demonstrate increased missile range and thrust modulation in flight,” Nusca said.

    The RDA awards recognize outstanding scientific and engineering achievements and technical leadership throughout the Army’s commands, laboratories, and research, development and engineering centers.

    Nusca was thrilled to have received the recognition by the Army for the team’s work.

    “Receiving this RDA for cooperation makes me feel proud to be a part of ARL and AMRDEC efforts to produce basic and applied research that is increasingly relevant to the Soldier to whom we owe the best battlefield technology that we develop,” Nusca said.


    • ARL is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.

      RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, or AMC. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness, technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection and sustainment, to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC delivers it.


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  • Army adopts stronger, lighter composite materials

    The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Aviation and Missile RDEC Prototype Integration Facility's Advanced Composites Lab is at the forefront of composite repair in Army aviation. In addition to performing the highest quality composite repairs, the PIF Advanced Composites Lab is creating solutions for the broad spectrum of composite needs in Army aviation. (Photos courtesy of U.S. Army)

    By Heather R. Smith

     
    REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (July 19, 2013) — In the future, Army aircraft may be made of all composite materials, and the Prototype Integration Facility (PIF) Advanced Composites Laboratory is ready.

    Part of the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center’s (AMRDEC), engineering directorate, the PIF’s advanced composites lab has successfully designed and made repairs on damaged composite aircraft components for several years now.

    From research and development to implementation and rapid prototyping, advancing composites technology is one of AMRDEC’s core competencies that enable the current and future force.

    The PIF advanced composites lab is one of several teams at the AMRDEC working with composites.

    Composite materials are a combination of materials that, when combined, produce a new material with characteristics different from the individual components. Examples of composite materials are fiberglass, Kevlar, and carbon fiber. Composite materials may be preferred for many reasons, including increased strength, reduced weight, and reduced production and sustainment cost.

    “We have gotten as strong and as light as we can get with metals, and we’re at the end of what metals can economically do,” PIF advanced composites lab lead Kimberly Cockrell said. “The only way to get stronger and lighter and more capable for the fight is to go to composites.”

    PIF leadership recognized a need for advanced composites repair and began developing a composites capability within the PIF mission to provide rapid response solutions to the warfighter. The program includes repair design and engineering substantiation to show that repaired components are returned to original strength.

    Personnel in the PIF advanced composites lab designed and developed repairs for damaged composite stabilators on the UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter and the AH-64E Apache helicopter. Prior to their repair method, the only way to repair an aircraft with a damaged stabilator was to pull off the broken stabilator and replace it with a new one.

    Cockrell said the “pull-and-replace” approach was costing the Army up to six figures per stabilator replacement.

    While the first repair procedures were designed for Black Hawk stabilators, the repair method applies to any solid laminate or sandwich core composite structure, so the procedures and training can be leveraged to other Army aircraft.

    Cockrell is proud of the lab’s achievements. Its repair procedures are the first approved repair for primary composite structure on Army aircraft.

    With integral support from the AMRDEC’s aviation engineering directorate, the procedures for the composite stabilator repairs have been written and are undergoing approval for release by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command (AMCOM) logistics center.

    An important aspect of developing repair methods is working with the repair personnel who will make the repairs. Members of the PIF Advanced Composites Lab have been training Soldiers on the new stabilator repair procedures prior to deployment so that they can request approval to use them, on a case-by-case basis, through the Aviation Engineering Directorate.

    The lab has also trained the instructors at the 128th Aviation Brigade, as well as the AMCOM logistics assistance representatives.

    In addition to training, the PIF Advanced Composites Lab, in partnership with the Aviation Engineering Directorate, played a lead role in developing the Army Technical Manual 1-1500-204-23-11 “Advanced Composite Material General Maintenance and Practices,” as well as in defining the tooling and material load for the new AVIM composites shop set.

    The lab is currently working repairs for blades too, as well as just-in-time tooling for parts with complex curves or topography.

    And in addition to repair solutions, the lab is using composite materials to create solutions for other issues. For example, it has designed and built a composite doubler to strengthen the hat channels that extend from the hinges of the UH-60 engine cowling.

    “When the aircraft is on the ground being maintained, the engine cowling folds out to become a maintenance stand,” Cockrell explained. “Two Soldiers can stand up there with a tool box and work on the engine. Unfortunately, minor damage to those hat channels can cause these (cowlings) to catastrophically fail and seriously injure the Soldiers.”

    “We designed this piece so that — if the hat channel shows any kind of damage whatsoever — you can simply install this doubler over the damaged area; it will restore the cowling to its original strength or better, and two doublers — one on each side of the cowling — adds less than a pound to the overall aircraft weight,” Cockrell continued. “So the pound that you add is well-worth the safety margin you gain.”

    It’s concepts like that, Cockrell said, that the lab is introducing to program managers to show how the lab can help with more than just repairing stabilators.

    “Our goal is to transition the stabilator repair business to other sources of supply, because we know that as soon as we get these repairs fully fielded, there will be new structures and composites issues for us to work,” Cockrell said. “The Apache composite tailboom, new composite cabin frames, new composite cabin floors, and new composite blades are all coming down the pike.”

    “In five to 10 years, it’s all composite,” he said. “So whether it’s fiberglass or carbon fiber or Kevlar or a hybrid, it’s going all composite quickly. And it’s important for the Army to be ready.”


    • AMRDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.

      RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness — technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment — to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC delivers it.


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  • Army harnesses sun to reduce casualties from sniper attacks

    By Edric Thompson

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The U.S. Army is harnessing the elements to help reduce casualties from sniper attacks on forward operating bases.

    The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s research laboratory and aviation missile and communications-electronics RD&E centers — the Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, and the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC — have integrated and deployed wind and solar harvesting systems to provide continuous energy to company-level, force protection systems used by U.S. Army combat units in theater.

    A joint venture by ARL, Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as AMRDEC, and industry, the Hostile Fire Detection Sensor, or Firefly, is a 360-degree surveillance system that uses acoustics fused with Short Wave Infrared detectors to locate enemy shooters for more accurate return fire.

    Firefly detects line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight hostile fire and classifies these as small arms, heavy machine gun or rocket/mortar. It calculates geo-location of the shot and provides self-position and heading in a standard cursor-on-target format. The Firefly can be either a mobile or fixed system, attached to the Soldier’s backpack while on patrol, or mounted at forward operating bases.

    The Firefly system was initially deployed to Afghanistan in May 2012 to support a fires detection requirement. However, deployment sites faced challenges in sustaining conventional power delivery to Fireflies along perimeter walls due to enemy attacks when Soldiers were above the wall line changing batteries.

    “In our attempts to solve the power issue, we discovered that CERDEC had sponsored the development of RENEWS power kits, which offered more complete solutions for charging the power supplies,” said William Lawler, an electrical engineer in ARL’s Sensor Integration Branch. “They immediately provided us with several kits, which we sent to AMRDEC for integration with Firefly and testing. Once it was determined that this solution satisfactorily extended the power supply, CERDEC provided several solar versions of the kits for deployment.”

    The Reusing Existing Natural Energy, Wind & Solar system, or RENEWS, enables the harvesting and utilization of wind and/or solar power and is intended to produce up to 300 watts of energy field usage in silent, remote operations where the supply of power and fuel resupply is difficult or risky, noted Daniel Berka, an electronics technician in CERDEC’s Command, Power & Integration directorate, or CERDEC CP&I.

    RENEWS consists of a wind turbine, three 124-watt flexible solar panels, a power conditioner, an AC inverter, and a battery storage/charging unit that contains six BB-2590 rechargeable batteries; it can be hooked into either the solar panels or the wind turbine for continuous charging. The BB-2590 battery, which was developed by CERDEC CP&I, is lighter than the standard BB-390 battery and features better capacity.

    “RENEWS offers options; solar was preferred in this case, using the solar panels to charge the six-pack of batteries during the day. We connected a cable from the RENEWS kit to the Firefly, giving them 1.2 KW of continuous energy to run the Firefly system. There still was some maintenance to check the Six-Pack and clean the dirt off the solar panels, but the Soldiers are not going up there every day because the solar panels are within the walls, so they’re not exposed to enemy fire,” Berka said.

    Limited pairings of the two systems have gone to theater as a package, with the most recent deployment being April 24.

    “Integration is absolutely a critical, relevant and priority S&T (science and technology) investment, and RDECOM is uniquely positioned to provide this to the Army,” said Dale Ormond, director of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, known as RDECOM. “We are the only organization that has the flexibility and technical expertise to execute the Army S&T mission across a broad portfolio of services. We can draw on a wide range of strengths and technical competencies from each of our centers and laboratories to develop holistic solutions that meet real operational needs. It provides better technical solutions for Soldiers and it enhances the Army’s ability to be more flexible and adaptive against asymmetrical threats.”

    The integrated solution also provided an opportunity for CERDEC CP&I to gather additional operational feedback to be used in efforts to reduce Soldier load and logistical support, said Pedro Passapera, chief for CERDEC CP&I’s Experimentation and Simulation Branch.

    “Changing power sources and delivering fuel can be dangerous for Soldiers in the field. We are always looking for opportunities to collaborate with other organizations in order to address small unit power issues while reducing the logistics footprint,” Passapera said.

    “Operational feedback allows us to see areas for improvements that would make the technology more effective for mission support,” Passapera continued. “Other Soldiers will benefit from this because we will use the feedback to make adjustments to the current or next generation system and provide the data back to the appropriate decision makers. This was a perfect fit.” said.

    CP&I has deployed 40 complete RENEWS systems and more than 60 solar systems to units, Passapera noted.

    AMRDEC is seeking to transition Firefly to a program of record in late fiscal year 2013, noted Timothy Edwards, Ph.D., lead for AMRDEC’s Firefly team.

    RDECOM, whose mission is to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers, is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness — technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment — to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.

    “This integrated solution has been very successful and is still serving the warfighters in Afghanistan. Working across RDECOM truly is the best way to support the warfighter,” Edwards said.


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  • Heftier unmanned ground vehicle offers more lifting, hauling strength

    The iRobot Warrior, using a tool on the end of its arm, is able to grab, lift and carry heavy items. The arm can lift up to 350 pounds and the Warrior can carry a payload of up to 150 pounds.

    By Robert Karlsen and Bob Van Enkenvoort

     

    DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. — A small car can’t pull a heavy trailer. Sports utility vehicles don’t have a compact car’s fuel efficiency. A perfect, one-size-fits-all vehicle doesn’t exist. The same goes for unmanned ground vehicles, known as UGVs.

    Soldiers use UGVs — such as the 40-pound PackBot or the larger, 115-pound TALON — to detect and defeat roadside bombs, gain situational awareness, detect chemical and radiological agents, and increase the standoff distance between Soldiers and potentially dangerous situations. Just as SUVs offer utility smaller cars can’t match, larger UGVs provide capabilities not available with smaller platforms.

    The 300-pound iRobot Warrior, developed in partnership with the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s tank and automotive center, is a large UGV that offers more lifting and carrying power, as well as the potential for better dexterity to grab items or open and close doors.

    The Warrior’s capabilities combine that of a tank automotive research, development and engineering center-developed map-based navigation and those of the Warrior’s predecessor, the Neomover, which was larger than a PackBot and could perform several dexterous tasks with its robotic arm.

    WARRIOR HOLDS UP IN EXERCISES

    The development team evaluated Warrior UGVs in several live exercises and a real-life disaster response. In February 2009, TARDEC brought the Warrior to the cobra gold tactical exercises in Thailand for an assessment at the Marine Experimentation Center.

    “A group of Marines were part of the exercise and they tested the system’s mobility, communication-range capabilities, how well can it go up and down stairs and through corridors and hallways,” said Jeremy Gray, TARDEC Ground Vehicle Robotics research electrical engineer.

    At the exercise, the Army tested the Warrior with several infantry mission scenarios including: entry-point checkpoint, vehicle security, building clearance, cordon and search, route clearance, assess mobility and casualty extractions. The cobra gold evaluations were vital in helping TARDEC associates determine how to move forward with the platform’s development.

    “We learned that the systems needed some improvements before we could get them to a fieldable maturity level,” said TARDEC GVR Customer Support Team Leader Lonnie Freiburger. “There were some good data points that showed that if we continued to make S&T investment in mission payloads — such as manipulators, platform intelligence, power, vision and explosive and chemical detection systems — we could have a better product.”

    The iRobot 710 Warrior with APOBS provides warfighters with a powerful and rugged unmanned system that facilitates the deliberate breaching of anti-personnel minefields and multi-strand wire obstacles.

    Shortly after that evaluation, TARDEC received congressional funding to work with iRobot in the development of two Warrior manipulator arms in July 2009. The arms were required to weigh less than 45 kilograms, have a reach of 1.5 meters, lift a 50 kilogram object and move it 50 meters, drag a 100 kilogram object for 50 meters, dig 25 centimeters into the soil, and turn over a 50 centimeter by 50 centimeter x 4 centimeters piece of concrete. iRobot eventually doubled the lift capacity and extended the reach to 1.9 meters, increasing the weight to 54 kilograms.

    iRobot also developed a mechanism attaching an Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching System, or APOBS, to the Warrior to teleoperate it into position and remotely fire the munition. The APOBS has two boxes with a line charge with grenades attached at intervals. An attached rocket is shot to lay out the line. The grenades on the line then detonate and clear a path for users.

    The APOBS is a fielded system, but must currently be put in place manually. Because of that, adding it to the Warrior or other tele-operated UGVs meant having to start from scratch.

    “Trying to take a system that was designed for that and adapt it and integrate it to a UGV was a great challenge because the technical reports and training manuals don’t have helpful information,” Gray said. “We had a lot of questions [regarding the APOBS integration] and asked the developers that made the training manuals, and they weren’t even sure. So it was a lot of: ‘Let’s see if this works.’ Luckily, we got through it all without blowing up the robot. It ended up being a success. We had a couple of close calls, but we learned a lot from that.”

    EXPANDING CAPABILITIES

    After those refinements were made, the team put Warrior to the test again. The congressional funding also allowed them to run more drills at the Navy’s China Lake, Calif., facility in November 2009, and then twice at the combined-arms live-fire exercise during 2010 Cobra Gold, outside of Chai Badan, Thailand.

    “It is a really big show. That’s when you have air and ground forces coming together from different countries. It’s basically one big exercise of one big assault. So you had air strikes and mortar rounds coming into an area,” Gray said. “The ground forces used the APOBS for the initial penetration, so the Warrior went up to the concertina wire, launched and blew that out of the way and then the ground forces were able to go in and complete the exercise.”

    Currently, one of TARDEC’s Warriors is undergoing final software testing. The other is at Re2′s facility supporting two small business initiatives TARDEC manages on semi-autonomous door opening and enhanced manipulation feedback. They are also being used to support Gray’s innovation project in developing a new gripper design.

    “Re2 is developing an enhanced intuitive control,” Gray noted “A lot of the manipulators don’t have real fine movement, and they don’t have haptic feedback, which is a type of feedback that goes back to the users so they have an idea of what is going on.”

    In that light, Re2 is building an end-effector tool kit for the Warrior arm with automatic tool- change capabilities.

    “On the end of your arm, there is some sort of tool — whether it’s a gripper, whether it’s a knife — that they have the ability to change out automatically,” Gray explained.

    In marsupial mode, the iRobot 710 Warrior carries a PackBot to approach, investigate and neutralize improvised explosive devices, while keeping personnel at a safe standoff distance.

    An assessment using the Warrior manipulator arm and the Re2 Modular Intelligent Manipulation and Intuitive Control was completed in December 2011 at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Scenarios involved opening doors, getting through locked doors and finding a locked device. The tasks were also done with smaller UGVs without the tool-change capabilities.

    Engineers took a unique approach to gather information in terms of what tools to design for the system.

    “We went out to Fallujah, Iraq, when we deployed and took photos of all the tools being strapped onto the robots. This is the ad-hoc stuff that the user is putting on,” Freiburger said.

    It makes sense to have conformed hardware designs instead of the makeshift tools added in the field.

    “It sounds like there is an opportunity to leverage what industry is doing, but industry is a little different. They’re more focused on very precise tasks in a benign environment. We’re dealing with very complex environments. Our tolerances are a little more open than what they have to deal with.”

    Tools currently being designed include:

    – end effectors — grippers — for different style of doors
    – engineering tools for route clearance, diggers and trenchers
    – small pneumatic sledgehammers that can pick through the ground
    – wire rakes to pull command wire from the ground
    – window breakers to do entry control point type of jobs

    REAL-LIFE DISASTER TESTING

    In addition to the California and Thailand exercises, iRobot sent two PackBots and two Warriors to Japan after the March 2011 magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that left around 19,000 people dead or missing and damaged several nuclear reactors to the point of near failure.
    The PackBots were first sent into a reactor to gain situational awareness, where the investigation found radiation levels of 72.0 Sieverts inside the reactor’s containment vessel — enough to kill a person in minutes.

    Tim Trainer, interim general manager of iRobot’s Military Business Unit, said the UGVs stood up well to the conditions.

    “We knew going into the operation that Warrior was a very rugged platform, but we didn’t know how much of an effect the high radiation levels would have on the robot operationally,” Trainer said. “We’re pleased that Warrior has continued to perform unaffected in this environment.”

    Workers also outfitted the platform with an industrial vacuum cleaner to remove radioactive debris and further reduce radiation levels.

    THE RIGHT MACHINE FOR THE JOB

    Moving ahead, the challenge is building the right size robot for the job.

    “There isn’t a perfect robot,” Gray said. “Eventually, you’re going to have an arsenal of robots, and you’re going to pick the one that’s going to help your mission the best each day.”

    Today, Soldiers primarily tele-operate robots.

    “There are some intelligent features that vendors are selling such as scripts for movements, such as manipulation. Maybe you need to reposition an arm before it can go upstairs. You push a button and the center of gravity is recalibrated from the manipulator for all the payloads and now you can climb up the stairs. Maybe you have a user that is continually picking up objects so now you have a script for that task,” Freiburger said. “We know we want to reduce the cognitive load of our warfighters and eventually be a force multiplier.”

    For now, engineers are working on augmented teleoperation to improve the operational tempo in any way possible, and continue the quest for improved autonomy and dexterity.

    “A robot is an enabler,” Freiburger said. “We’re constantly working on improving the touch, senses, and other ways of communicating and understanding our environment. [We're] trying to make the robots more like humans in any way possible.”

    ABOUT TARDEC

    TARDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.

    RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness — technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment — to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.


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  • Engineers work to better monitor missile health

    Missiles RDECOM - Stephen Marotta, principal investigator with the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, watches as Stephen Horowitz, a Ducommun Miltec engineer, displays a fully functional prototype MEMs sensor being developed to monitor vibration in support of missile health monitoring.

    By Evelyn Teats

     

    REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s (RDECOM) aviation and missile center is leveraging micro-electro-mechanical systems research in a new application to detect potentially damaging vibrations encountered by missiles during handling, transport and operation.

    Stephen Marotta, Engineering Directorate project principal investigator, said MEMS research has been ongoing at Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center for many years and many different applications have been successfully transitioned from the lab to the Soldier in the field.

    In an effort to improve missile health monitoring, Marotta began collaborating with Mohan Sanghadasa, from AMRDEDC’s Weapons Development and Integration Directorate, and Stephen Horowitz, an engineer with Ducommun Miltec.

    The AMRDEC team is using technology, both current and in-development, to design a new MEMS sensor that will offer several benefits over current missile health monitoring systems.

    “We’ve spent a number of years developing acoustic sensors, microphones based on piezoelectric materials,” Horowitz said, “and there’s not a huge difference between designing a microphone and designing a vibration sensor and accelerometers. It’s a different structure, a different geometry, but we use the same fabrication processes to create them. On our first generation sensor, we used the same materials even.”

    One benefit of the new design is extended battery life.

    Current missile health monitoring methods require a lot of power, because they collect vibration data at all frequencies. Research, however, has shown that the greatest risk for damage to missiles occurs during low vibration — under 200 hertz. The AMRDEC team is designing a sensor that only collects low frequency data and is capable of switching on and off, thus extending the battery’s life.

    Marotta said the MEMS work meets the challenge set by AMRDEC director for missile development Steve Cornelius to get new capabilities into the hands of Soldiers, to leverage technology solutions that increase readiness, and to enable more affordable weapons.

    “Applied research, led by the AMRDEC Engineering Directorate, is addressing those many challenges in an integrated fashion with other AMRDEC directorates, other RDECs, and other services to sustain its missile systems as efficiently and effectively as possible,” Marotta said. “AMRDEC science and technology for monitoring of missile health or condition improves the accuracy of readiness reporting and reduces the overall missile sustainment burden. AMRDEC is making a positive impact with current technology transitions at present, as well as greatly benefiting future systems.”

    A prototype of the sensor should be complete later this year with transition into the field expected in 2014.

    The team reported its research in a paper published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, “A Low Frequency MEMS Vibration Sensor for Low Power Missile Health Monitoring.” The paper was nominated for best paper at the 2013 IEEE conference.

    AMRDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.

    RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness — technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment — to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.


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  • Army engineers enhance EOD Soldiers’ safety with ‘batwings’

    By Daniel Lafontaine

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — U.S. Army engineers in Afghanistan recently designed and fabricated a tool to help Soldiers investigate possible improvised explosive devices from a safer distance.

    Capt. Chad M. Juhlin, commander of the 53rd Ordnance Company (EOD), said his Soldiers needed an attachment for use with the iRobot 310-SUGV when searching for IEDs. The iRobot’s explosive ordnance disposal capabilities were limited, requiring Soldiers to operate close to the potential hazards.

    The forward deployed engineering cell from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, took on the challenge.

    The RDECOM Field Assistance in Science and Technology-Center developed the first iteration of the “batwing” in January for Combined Joint Task Force Paladin. It is a collapsible hook that attaches to a telescoping pole for interrogating a site believed to contain explosives.

    The same tools needed to be modified for attachment to robot arms.

    Two engineers and two technicians adapted the RFAST-C’s existing “batwing” command wire detection hook so it could be used with the EOD team’s iRobot arm, and they delivered the products in two weeks.

    “RFAST-C provides a great opportunity for Soldiers on the ground to submit a requirement on the battlefield that will eventually turn into a product,” Juhlin said. “Having these capabilities in theater not only decreases the lead time to obtain the product but allows for easy manipulation to the item if needed.”

    The RFAST-C’s modified “batwing” design provides multiple tools for remote IED operations, including a hook for grabbing or cutting command wire, a rake for breaking up soil, and a spade for moving and digging up items, said Mark Woolley, who led the project for RFAST-C. He is an electrical engineer with RDECOM’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center.

    RFAST-C Director Mike Anthony said both the first-generation “batwing” for telescoping poles and the subsequent modification for robots have received positive feedback from Soldiers in the field.

    The Joint IED Defeat Organization requested 670 original “batwings” for Special Operations Forces and EOD units worldwide. CJTF Paladin requested 50 iRobot “batwings,” in addition to the 10 already delivered to the 53rd Ordnance Company.

    Anthony said the partnership between the 53rd Ordnance Company and RFAST-C was made possible by Scott Heim, a mechanical engineer with RDECOM’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center who is assigned to the Science and Technology Assistance Team at the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan at Bagram Airfield.

    Heim said one of his major duties is to help Soldiers with a technological need connect with the RFAST-C.

    “This example is just one of many projects that have been successful with FAST entities collaborating with users and developing requirements in a collective environment,” Heim said. “Working with the RFAST-C, we can provide rapid prototyping designs to facilitate an evaluation as to whether it meets the user’s needs or if a couple of modifications are needed before production is started.”

    After analyzing the iRobot’s capabilities, RFAST-C personnel cut, bent and welded a proof of concept in minutes to conduct a real-time test, Heim said. The prototype functioned well, but it also revealed some weaknesses and potential optimization features. The team made changes for a second version, which was then successfully manufactured.

    Nick Merrill, a mechanical engineer with RDECOM’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, assisted in the design of the iRobot “batwing.” He said the collaboration with the Soldiers helped the team quickly develop a prototype.

    “This project was unique in how we came up with the original prototype. Most projects, we sit down and brainstorm. For this one, they brought the robot in, we looked at it and how it grasps objects,” Merrill said. “Within 20 minutes of them being on-site, we had a quick, very rough prototype. Not very often does something get off the ground that quick.”


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  • Army wins top award for innovation

    The U.S. Army has been named one of the 2012 Top100 Global Innovators by Thomson Reuters, the multimedia and information conglomerate. Pictured with the award are Ms. Heidi Shyu, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)); Mr. John E. Nettleton of the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center; and Mr. Bartley Durst of the Engineer Research and Development Center (Corps of Engineers) (Photos by Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller).

    By Claire Heininger

     

    ARLINGTON, Va. (April 30, 2013) — The U.S. Army has been named one of the world’s most innovative research organizations, after earning more than 300 patents for new technologies in a three-year period.

    The Army joins the ranks of private companies such as 3M, Apple, AT&T, Dow Chemical, DuPont and General Electric as one of the 2012 Top100 Global Innovators named by Thomson Reuters, the multimedia and information conglomerate. The U.S. Navy was also named, making the two service branches the first government agencies to make the list.

    “This recognition is shared with the members of our Army Science and Technology community who perform research relevant for the Army and our important mission, and provide the innovation that contributes to a strong national security posture,” said Heidi Shyu, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)), who accepted the award on behalf of the service during a small ceremony at the Pentagon. “Nearly 12,000 scientists and engineers perform their work daily knowing that it will benefit our Soldiers by providing them with the best technology available to successfully accomplish their mission.”

    The award focused on all organizations having 100 or more “innovative” patents, defined as the first publication in a patent document of a new technology, from 2009-2011. Thomson Reuters then used its proprietary methodology to measure the organizations’ success on a variety of metrics, such as “influence” — how often their research was cited by other innovators in their subsequent inventions — and “success,” the conversion rate of patent applications to granted patents.

    The U.S. Army has been named one of the 2012 Top100 Global Innovators by Thomson Reuters, the multimedia and information conglomerate. Pictured with the award are Mr. Dale A. Ormond, Director of the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM); Mr. Ronald E. Meyers of the Army Research Laboratory; Ms. Heidi Shyu, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)); Mr. John E. Nettleton of the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center; Mr. Bartley Durst of the Engineer Research and Development Center (Corps of Engineers); and Ms. Mary Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology.

    The Army scored well in both of those categories, with more than 8,500 citations of its inventions published from 2007-2011, and 327 granted patents out of 436 published inventions from 2009-2011. The service also stood out for the broad range of subject matter covered in its inventions portfolio, ranging from training software that uses virtual robots to dispose of simulated explosives, to a folding shield that protects the operator of a tank weapon station, to a vaccine guarding against infection by the Ebola virus.

    “This illustrates how we attack many Army-unique problems, yet also contribute in wide-ranging areas,” said Dale A. Ormond, Director of the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM). “Our portfolio was heavy in weapons, ammunition and blasting, but also pharmaceutical products, polymers and computing.”

    More than 900 individuals contributed to the Army’s patents, including personnel from RDECOM, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, as well as some of their partners from industry, government and academia. Three of those individuals, representing all the Army innovators, were honored at the award ceremony, including Ronald E. Meyers of the Army Research Laboratory, who was the top innovator with 11 patents; John E. Nettleton of the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center; and Bartley P. Durst of the Engineer Research and Development Center, Corps of Engineers.

    The recognition by Thomson Reuters illustrates the depth, skill and dedication of the Army science and technology community and the impact of their efforts both within and beyond the military, leaders said.

    “Our people operate in the space between the state of the art and the art of the possible where innovation is paramount and focused on addressing needs unique to the Army,” Ormond said. “We also develop technologies that have a major impact once they leave the military world. It’s an incredible value for the taxpayer.”

    In a constrained budget environment, deliberate investment in science and technology is essential to drive continued innovation, Shyu said. The Army is developing a strategic plan that will protect and facilitate science and technology efforts that are essential to Army modernization, addressing the state of emerging and evolving threats; trends in commercial technology; current and emerging equipment requirements; and research in core priorities that address Army-unique challenges.

    While it is difficult to predict future technology developments, leaders expressed confidence in the Army workforce to continue accelerating innovation to give Soldiers the decisive edge.

    “Army Science and Technology cannot survive without innovative scientists and engineers,” said Mary J. Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology. “We are lucky to have an amazing group of scientists and engineers to invent, innovate, mature and demonstrate technology that provides increased capability to the Warfighter.”


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  • Tell me where it hurts

    Army Research and Development Improves Translation Technologies for Military Medics

     

    Amanda Rominiecki

     
    When providing medical care, it is critical that medics are able to converse with patients about their medical needs. Language barriers make communication a challenge and can hinder the delivery of effective medical care. Without the assistance of a human translator, a medic may not be able to accurately capture enough information to fully address a patient‘s needs.

    Maj. Johanna Perdue, a U.S. Air Force Medical Element nurse, and Christina Milo, a MAST team member, communicate through an iPad. The MAST project uses a commercial translation application as a baseline for machine language translation. CERDEC research through MAST has worked to perfect the way complicated words and phrases are collected and added to software in order to improve accuracy. (CERDEC Photo by SSG Bryan Franks)

    Engineers from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command‘s Communications-Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) have spent the past year developing strategies and methods for improving machine foreign language translation software in support of military medical translation needs.

    The Medical Application of Speech Translation (MAST) is a collaborative research project between CERDEC, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command’s, Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), and the U.S. Army Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). TATRC is the sponsor and program manager for MAST, CERDEC provides the engineering support, and SOUTHCOM facilitates access to the operational environment and end-user base.

    “TATRC has identified a need to conduct research on capabilities that will enhance communication for Department of Defense health engagements outside the United States,” said Ray Schulze, Chief, Information Management Branch, for CERDEC‘s Command, Power, and Integration Directorate (CP&I).

    Translation software today learns, or becomes more accurate, in much the same way a small child learns, explained Yaeger, a subject matter expert in the area of machine language translation who has traveled to Honduras three times in the past six months performing technology demonstrations and collecting simulated data for the MAST project.

    “Medics are seeking a small portable solution, basically, translation software that runs on a mobile device that can be used without an internet connection” said Cynthia Barrigan, MAST Program Manager and portfolio manager for global health engagement at TATRC. “In addition, we know that while users are interested in using a translation technology, they are concerned about how it will integrate into their clinical routine in the field and how a patient will react to it. They are also aware that they will need the translation to be very accurate to be useful; giving them a vested interest in seeing real improvements to the current capability.”

    CERDEC has worked in the field of language translation for a number of years, supporting Product Director, Machine Foreign Language Translation Systems, or PD MFLTS, since its inception.

    “We specialize in language translation in the disconnected environment and doing so on various mobile platforms,” said Schulze. “After hearing reports about translation challenges in Haiti, following the 2010 earthquake, TATRC recognized that translation was a pressing need for the medical community and that we could assist with the engineering research and development to help accelerate a medical capability.”

    “The combination of automatic speech recognition, which takes spoken word and converts it into text, and foreign language translation [technologies] already exists, but the accuracy of those technologies is mediocre, at best, when used within the medical domain,” said Schulze.

    In some locations, Soldiers currently have foreign language translation technologies like the Phraselator, initially developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in partnership with CERDEC back in 2001. Those systems were developed for expedience in particular Soldier scenarios using, initially, one-way translation, and using generic phrases that require the user to stick to a script. Commercial translation applications also exist, but they are made for tourists in foreign countries.

    A U.S. Marine Corps petty officer interacts with a Thailand native using a translation application on a smartphone. Applications that can be accessed without an internet connection are of most use to medics, who often work in remote locations. CERDEC machine language translation research focuses on internet-independent translation software. (CERDEC photo by Lance Cpl. Kris Daberkoe)

    “Medical providers tend to use complicated terminology that can easily be misinterpreted by a machine”, said Schulze.

    “If you‘re really talking Western medical terms [to a commercial translation app], take mesothelioma for example, it misunderstands that word as Miss Ophelia,” he said.

    The MAST project aims to conduct research and development that can support medical care in the field.

    Armed with a variety of mobile devices loaded with a commercial translation software application called Jibbigo, the MAST team gathered useful operational data and observations, and demonstrated the technology to users.

    To date, collected data has all been scenario-based, meaning engineers created scripts based on their observations of doctor and patient interactions and recorded the scripted conversations between a native Honduran, volunteers and medical students, and SOUTHCOM medics.

    “The more data you give the program, the better it becomes. That‘s the purpose for us going and doing all these recordings,” said Daniel Yaeger, a CACI contractor supporting CERDEC CP&I.

    Translation software today learns, or becomes more accurate, in much the same way a small child learns, explained Yaeger, a subject matter expert in the area of machine language translation who has traveled to Honduras three times in the past six months performing technology demonstrations and collecting simulated data for the MAST project.

    “A child learns by listening to conversations, they absorb it,” said Yaeger. “It‘s very similar to statistical machine translation, which is what we‘re doing. Essentially, you tell the program that this sound means this text. You do that enough times and the algorithms behind the machine translation software actually learn those new phrases.”

    Machine translation is not expected to replace a human interpreter, especially for emergency or complicated medical practices, said both Schulze and Yaeger. Machine translation is meant to augment the number of human interpreters that currently exist.

    CERDEC CP&I engineers followed SOUTHCOM medics on several medical readiness training exercises (to observe how medics interact with patients. This includes observing the process of registration, triage, observing the types of conversations between doctors and patients, common questions a doctor asks, and how human interpreters are being used, said Yaeger. By understanding how medics interact with patients, engineers can determine the specific requirements that would be needed to put a machine translation system in place.

    Each trip to Honduras has used a different set of hardware, microphones, devices, and form factors to gain feedback from doctors.

    “Wireless was big, they don‘t want the wire to get in the way or have to disconnect from anything,” said Yaeger. “So we brought wireless microphones and packaged everything in a neat set up where you can just pick it up and take it where you need it. There are no wires, it‘s ready to go.”

    The observations also revealed a significant challenge to MAST and other translation programs. Shy, quiet patients in a noisy environment make it incredibly difficult for speech recognition software to hear what a patient is saying, let alone translate it.

    “It‘s mostly women and young children that come to these events in Honduras. It‘s very difficult to get them to speak loud enough and then interact with an iPad that they‘ve probably never even seen before. A lot of them are hesitant to touch it,” said Yaeger.

    While simple hardware improvements to the translation device, like an improved microphone, have dramatically improved performance in noisy environments, those same improvements do little to make a patient feel more comfortable.

    To combat this problem, a concurrent CERDEC machine translation project in Thailand has attempted to change the paradigm about what translation software can do for doctors. The common idea is to turn doctors into bilinguals by giving them translation applications. The twist in this program has experimented with taking an individual from the local population and turning them into the translator.

    “Instead of turning the doctor into an interpreter, we turned someone who was monolingual into an interpreter in that language,” said Yaeger. “We call them monolingual facilitators.”

    These facilitators, local volunteers at medical exercises, are trained by a bilingual translator to use the translation software. The doctor interacts with the facilitator in the same way he would with an interpreter, but the device is used to communicate between the two languages.

    “The facilitator is there as a cultural filter between the technology and the patient,” said Yaeger. “The patient doesn‘t have to interact with it [the translation device] at all. They‘re going to have a conversation with someone who lives in their country, speaks their language, and knows their culture. That facilitator will talk back to the doctor using the technology.”

    Not only does this set-up make a patient more comfortable, but it also proves to be more efficient. The same two people, doctor and facilitator, interact and use the technology all day, rather than having to teach each new patient how to use the translation system.

    Machine translation is not expected to replace a human interpreter, especially for emergency or complicated medical practices, said both Schulze and Yaeger. Machine translation is meant to augment the number of human interpreters that currently exist.

    While the recordings from MAST over the past year were scripted, they were all spoken by native Spanish speakers, as opposed to doctors providing medical terms in Spanish, said Schulze. The Spanish language sounds different when spoken by a native speaker compared to a native English speaker. Those differences impact the accuracy of translation software, so it is critical to gather data from native speakers for any machine translation program.

    These efforts are noteworthy advances in CERDEC‘s expertise in language translation, Schulze said. “We‘re not just collecting data. We‘re trying to perfect the process of collecting data for the purpose of improving translation accuracy. An example of this is the work we‘re doing with TATRC within the medical domain.”

    As the process of collecting data is perfected, the technology can be transitioned to other languages and other niche areas outside the medical domain.

    “The key is improving the process–that‘s how it will be transitioned to other domains,” said Schulze. “We ‘talk‘ to computers using a keyboard and mouse, everyday of our lives. It takes longer than simply speaking like we do to human beings, but it‘s just the most accurate way to interact with machines. Accurate speech recognition and language translation could revolutionize the way Soldiers will interact with computers and frankly the entire world.”

     


    • Amanda Rominiecki is a RDECOM CERDEC Public Affairs Specialist.

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  • Army Examines Feasibility of Integrating 4G LTE with Tactical Network

    CERDEC enabled a mounted/hand-held computing environment that allowed for the dissemination of mission command data, imagery, streaming video, and voice between dismounted Soldiers and fixed command posts.

    Edric Thompson

    The Army employed a 4G cellular network this summer at its integrated capabilities testbed at Fort Dix, NJ to address integration with current network designs and to allow actionable intelligence for dismounted squads.

    The U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command’s (RDECOM) Communications-Electronics RD&E center (CERDEC) enabled a mounted/hand-held computing environment that allowed for the dissemination of mission command data, imagery, streaming video,and voice between dismounted Soldiers and fixed command posts.

    “We’ve had a long-standing collaboration with CERDEC PD C4ISR & Network Modernization; they handle the network pieces and infrastructure while our focus is developing the user interface to portray the information in the most optimal way for the dismounted Soldier.”

    This was achieved by integrating a fourth-generation Long Term Evolution (4G LTE) network with a multi-tiered transport architecture that leveraged components of the Capability Set 13 design,including the Soldier Radio Waveform, the Adaptive Networking Wideband Waveform, terrestrial communications, and WIN-T Increment 1 and Increment 2 satellite communications.

    “Based on personal experiences or commercials they see, many people recognize that 4G networks introduce greater capacity, which allows you to push more data, larger images, video, etcetera,” said R.J. Regars, software development lead for CERDEC Product Director (PD) command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) & Network Modernization. “But it’s an isolated cloud, which doesn’t translate well to the tactical environment without significant investments in infrastructure to provide reach back from the tactical edge to a brigade or battalion. So you need to look at what can be integrated across the terrestrial communications network, where there’s less bandwidth.”

    PD C4ISR & Network Modernization is a Reaserach and Development program within RDECOM CERDEC that focuses on the future network near-term and several years out, providing the Army with a relevant venue to assess next-generation technologies and to facilitate technology maturation.

    Part of its mission is to provide technology and system maturity evaluation/assessment services to RDECOM centers, labs, and programs of record,” Regars explained. “As such, the exploration of 4G LTE cellular networks was conducted in support of the Soldier Domain initiatives of RDECOM’s Natick Soldier RD&E Center.”

    “We’ve had a long-standing collaboration with CERDEC PD C4ISR & Network Modernization; they handle the network pieces and infrastructure while our focus is developing the user interface to portray the information in the most optimal way for the dismounted Soldier,” said David Darkow, Natick Soldier RD&E Center, or NSRDEC, lead for Soldier Systems integration and experimentation.

    “The configuration and performance of the network will determine what we can push to the Soldier and what we can do in terms of information portrayal,” Darkow said. “We’ll adapt our work to fit the different network types so we can give the Soldier the maximum capability that will come with that network.”

    CERDEC employed a 4G cellular network at its field lab environment to address integration challenges with current network designs.

    “Based on personal experiences or commercials they see, many people recognize that 4G networks introduce greater capacity, which allows you to push more data, larger images, video, etcetera.”

    The PD first explored the use of commercial cellular in 2010 as a proof of concept, combining 3G networks and handhelds with tactical communications systems to transmit biometrics and mission command data, share imagery, send alerts, call for fires, and to run Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below Joint Capabilities Release functionality. Data was sent back and forth between dismounts and the tactical operations center.

    In 2011, CERDEC demonstrated the Multi-Access Cellular Extension (MACE) foundational architecture to help pave the way for integrating commercial cellular technologies into current and future force networks, allowing use beyond a fixed infrastructure, such as WiFi access points or cellular base stations. Technologies under MACE seek to enable the secure use of smart devices and the ability to provide direct device-to-device Mobile Ad-Hoc Network-like features, enabling the Army to use multiple commercial wireless solutions, which could save the Army billions of dollars.

    Science and technology efforts addressing the tactical aspects of employing commercial cellular, such as information assurance and policy-based security, will factor into shaping future PD C4ISR & Network Modernization events, said Jason Sypniewski, chief for PD C4ISR & Network Modernization’s Integrated Event Design and Analysis branch.

    “This summer’s exploration of 4G LTE can be viewed as a data point to be correlated across a larger sample size of efforts looking at the tactical cellular arena,” Sypniewski said. “It’s just one example of how extending the development environment to the field can be applied toward building a body of evidence to accelerate informed decisions on the right capabilities and where they should be employed within the network.”
     


    • Edric Thompson is a RDECOM CERDEC Public Affairs Specialist. He holds a B.A. in public relations and English and an M.A in English all from Western Kentucky University.

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  • Army Explores Tactical 4G Telemedicine

    Medics send electronic Tactical Casualty Care Cards over a tactical network so surgeons can see injuries and what treatment have been performed prior to the patient's arrival. The combination of secure tactical communications and knowledge management helps brigade surgeons prioritize treatment and evacuation assets. (Photos by Edric Thompson, CERDEC Public Affairs)

    Edric Thompson

    The Army explored whether real-time, electronic point-of-treatment care was possible or practical this summer at its integrated capabilities test bed at Fort Dix, NJ.

    Key medical and technical personnel from the U.S. Army Medical Research & Materiel Command (MRMC) and the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) combined prototype medical military software with commercial hand-held technologies and tactical 4G networks to send medical information from the point of injury on the battlefield back to the doctor for real-time communication and decision making.

    “As decision makers look at network modernization, this is the type of information they will want in order to help them make informed decisions regarding telemedicine capabilities and the networks on which they’re going to ride. Our mission is to provide this.”

    “It’s going to build confidence in the medic on the field that’s isolated with a severely wounded Soldier,” said Carl Manemeit, Physiological Monitoring project lead for the MRMC’s Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC).

    “If you’ve ever seen the movie, ‘Black Hawk Down,’ the medic is trying to treat the guy with the artery issue in his leg; the medic goes through all his resources, and once he exhausted all his knowledge, he was stuck,” Manemeit said. If he had been connected to the surgeons back at the treatment facility, they could have given him more guidance on how to save that Soldier’s life. By injecting this expertise, we might be able to do that one thing that could save some guy’s life; that’s what we’re looking to do.”

    Medics used man-portable physiological monitoring devices with streaming video, voice, and photo capability, and sent electronic Tactical Casualty Care Cards (TC3) over a tactical network to the surgical facility so surgeons could see injuries and what treatment had been performed prior to the patient’s arrival.

    Medics utilize man-portable physiological monitoring devices with streaming video, voice, and photo capability to send medical information to doctors for real-time communication and decision making.

    “There’s an information gap that lies between the point of injury on the field and point of treatment back at a medical facility,” said Dr. Gary R. Gilbert, TATRC Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation program manager for Secure Telemedicine. “We need to do a better job of being able to record what the medic saw and did prior to the patient being evacuated to the treatment facility, and we want this record to be transmitted to the Soldier’s permanent health records.”

    “Now when the patient goes to a combat support hospital, or gets back to Walter Reed for further care, the doctors can see what happened in the field; and five years from now when the patient goes into a VA [Veterans Affairs] hospital seeking treatment, the care providers can see everything that’s been done,” Gilbert said.

    Currently, medics fill out a paper TC3 that’s attached to the injured Soldier before evacuation to the battalion aid station or the combat support hospital. In some cases, the TC3 never makes it back to the treatment facility, and the information never makes it to the patient records.

    “One of the issues I had with the card is that it’s a piece of paper held on with a metal wire,” said SPC Daniel Vita, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, Fort Detrick, MD. “Pretty much, you would have attached it to the patient through his zipper or around his wrist, but you potentially had the problem of ripping the paper from the metal loop.”

    Vita, who was a medic with the 130th Engineer Brigade Headquarters in Iraq, preferred using tape and a sharpie because “it stayed.”

    “I like the idea of an electronic TC3 because it’s simpler,” Vita said. “It’s a lot easier for the information to get to where it needs to go and it makes it legible. When you filled out a TC3 card and put it on the patient, they didn’t know what was happening until that patient and card got to them. Now doing it electronically, you can send it ahead to the level two or three so they have an idea of what kinds of patients and casualties are coming in.”

    The combination of secure tactical communications and knowledge management may also help brigade surgeons prioritize treatment and evacuation assets so the most critically injured can be treated first.

    “The Army uses medevac, but the bad news is that it costs about $20,000 per patient flight,” said Dave Williams, Project Manager for Theater Tele-Health Initiatives, TATRC. “And if you have six assets and 12 patients, who should they get first? If we can determine which patients can be held and which can be treated and stabilized on site, it might be a less expensive way to save a patient’s life.”

    The work was performed at the integrated capabilities test bed operated by Product Director (PD) Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (C4ISR) and Network Modernization, an R&D program within U.S. Army RDECOM’s communications-electronics RD&E center (CERDEC).

    “We need to do a better job of being able to record what the medic saw and did prior to the patient being evacuated to the treatment facility, and we want this record to be transmitted to the Soldier’s permanent health records.”

    “This is a forgiving environment because it’s designed for testing and solution proving,” Gilbert said. “If things don’t work, that’s OK; you find out what doesn’t work and you fix it here. There are a lot of technologies required to make this work, and we don’t have all of these. CERDEC is helping to fill in those gaps by providing a variety of radio capabilities that you wouldn’t get at a real brigade: SRW, Wideband Networking Waveform, Adaptive Networking Wideband Waveform, deployable 4G, Airborne relay, connection to Army Warfighter Information Network-Tactical. They provide the infrastructure and we just bring the application.”

    PD C4ISR & Network Modernization focuses on the future network, near-term, and several years out, providing the Army with a relevant venue to assess next-generation technologies and to facilitate technology maturation. The program is also a key component in CERDEC’s support of the agile acquisition process, using its field lab environment to perform risk mitigation and candidate assessment/selection for future Network Integration Rehearsal/Exercise events.

    “These guys are not only preparing the current force to be successful, they’re closing the gaps for the future force with each iteration of these integrated capabilities events,” Williams said. “You don’t solve all the problems in one 12-month cycle. This venue is providing the medics an opportunity to get inside the Program Objective Memorandum cycle to come up with those solutions and iteratively solve them as technologies emerge and grow with us. This has been a complete team effort to develop a solution that did not exist six years ago.”

    This is the third year that PD C4ISR & Network Modernization has examined network capabilities that could support the medic/first responder’s mission.

    During 2011, PD C4ISR & Network Modernization combined fielded tactical radios such as the Enhanced Position Location Reporting System with the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW) to see if it was possible and feasible to provide enhanced bandwidth and over-the-horizon communications for hand-held medical data. This year, a 4G cellular mesh network was implemented, using SRW to bridge back to the tactical network.

    “We’re examining how best to combine the future and current so we can enable the medical community to perform their mission more efficiently,” said Jason Sypniewski, chief for PD C4ISR & Network Modernization’s Integrated Event Design & Analysis branch. “We’re looking at the Soldier Radio Waveform because it’s a self-healing waveform that allows non-line-of-sight communication; that’s the vision for where the Army wants to go. We’ve looked at EPLRS [Enhanced Position Location Reporting System] because it’s an existing asset on which the medical community could recapitalize.”

    “Cellular technology could be the future of tele-health on the modern battlefield, but we need to know if it can be done, and if so, would it actually enhance the delivery of information?” Sypniewski said. “As decision makers look at network modernization, this is the type of information they will want in order to help them make informed decisions regarding telemedicine capabilities and the networks on which they’re going to ride. Our mission is to provide this.”
     


    • Edric Thompson is a RDECOM CERDEC Public Affairs Specialist. He holds a B.A. in public relations and English and an M.A in English all from Western Kentucky University.

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