US ARMY RESEARCH LAB
Announcement of the science business
ADELPHI, Md. – Last year Army researchers had their share of scientific and technological advances. The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, now known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory, the Army's research research laboratory, is on a mission to operationalize the science of transformative overconformities.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us all this year," said the lab's chief scientist, Dr. Alexander Kott. "Nonetheless, in 2020 our scientists and researchers made groundbreaking discoveries that will empower and protect our future soldiers."
The lab's top scientists picked the coolest advances to show how Army scientists and researchers are helping the soldier of the future with a top 10 list from 2020. Watch the top 10 video on YouTube:
Number 10: X-ray-like imaging system for seeing through barriers
How about a Superman-like X-ray vision in the form of protective goggles for soldiers? New research funded by the Army is exploring how this can become a reality.
The researchers developed an imaging system to see objects through environmental barriers such as sand. They beam an ultra-fast laser through a barrier and read back the reflected photons, putting together an image of what was behind the barrier in a fraction of a second.
Existing imaging functions are limited to conveying objects in two dimensions. However, this new study will show objects in three dimensions, giving soldiers more accurate situational and threat awareness in degraded visual environments. This could help future pilots fly through sandstorms and robots could navigate fog.
"Previous efforts were at very small distances and with very difficult and complex methodology," said Army researcher Dr. Hamid Crimea. "This is more of a macro scale and can be used on large or small moving platforms."
Number 9: Levitating, freezing atoms for further quantum networking
Army researchers use laser beams to levitate atoms and freeze them to the coldest temperatures on earth, almost zero. Patterns of quantum information are stored in the frozen atoms, creating quantum holograms that can be retrieved. From this, the researchers developed a new way to solve a critical challenge in quantum entanglement.
The resulting holographic quantum memory is a building block for future army quantum networks with exponentially more powerful computational, sensing, and communication capabilities.
"Quantum networks are completely different from anything that currently exists," said army researcher Kevin Cox. “The Internet is currently the network and has certain functions. Quantum networks have completely different functions and access a part of the universe that we could not access before. This will result in computing power that is orders of magnitude more powerful than anything currently in existence. "
Number 8: An ultra-thin, flexible switch for accessing the highest 5G frequencies
A new ultra-thin radio frequency switch could provide access to the highest 5G frequencies and enable 6G connectivity and beyond.
Building on a material that the army discovered 10 years ago, the research partners have developed an atomic switch that can connect to the best available frequencies. It is more than 100 times more energy efficient than what is used today and can transfer data at speeds of up to 100 gigabits per second. This speeds up the speed at which users can stream high-resolution media, for example, and significantly extends average battery life.
"This switches between frequencies, much like tuning frequencies on a radio," said Army researcher Dr. Chakrapani Varanasi. "The increased bandwidth and frequency range are second to none – but they consume a fraction of the energy than currently used."
The switch, which is one atom thick, is a fraction of a nanometer in size and flexible, so that it can be easily integrated into portable systems as a laminate on soldiers' uniforms with negligible additional weight. This could revolutionize the way the army communicates and be integrated with satellite systems, smart radios and the Internet of Things.
Number 7: Autonomous sensors to configure the wireless mesh network
Imagine if autonomous, independent sensors could create their own wireless network in a remote location. Army scientists are working on technologies that give soldiers situational awareness through a unique autonomous mesh network solution. Discarded sensors on a battlefield autonomously form their own network to route communication back to a location of interest, whether it is a command post or a lone soldier.
This radio network, which is created during operation, requires little or no user intervention, adapts to local conditions and is more than 20 times more energy-efficient than conventional army radios. This means that soldiers can wear less and communicate better.
"Soldiers carry so much weight, and the radio and batteries make up a significant portion of that charge," said Army researcher Ron Tobin. "Such a capability could be much more energy efficient, which could improve communication for longer periods of time, but also reduce the burden on soldiers."
Number 6: real-time object detection model
Just as autonomous cars can recognize their surroundings, soldiers need real-time scene understanding at the tactical edge. With the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning, army researchers developed a novel object recognition model to instantly identify objects of interest.
Sensors used on platforms such as drones or ground vehicles capture images and videos. The model locates and identifies these objects and processes information on site – even if the computation processing is limited. Soldiers are then made aware of suspicious activity in the area.
"Our model can process five to six images per second, which is comparable with the current state of the art," said the army researcher Dr. Heesung Kwon. "However, we use several classifiers that can recognize objects better than existing models."
This function enables quick decision-making, reduces the mission risk and can be integrated into future Soldier glasses.
Number 5: Electrical Kick to Help the Brain
Sometimes we could all use a little stimulation to get our brains going. Army and academic researchers found how a subtle electrical impulse helps the brain reorganize its activity to adapt quickly and make better decisions. Inspired by dynamic network technologies, the researchers used this impetus to bypass the normal sensory and cognitive pathways of humans.
"This changes the flow of information through connections in the brain and can help us understand how the brain works, especially in groups," said Army researcher Dr. Javier Garcia.
This research lays the foundation for improved collaboration with intelligent agents – with possible future neurotechnologies that could prevent or predict behavioral errors or assess individual cognitive performance in order to keep our soldiers sharp.
Number 4: AI to predict aircraft damage and failure
Army helicopters perform some of the most daring maneuvers in some of the most dangerous places on earth. It is important to keep the fleet in top condition.
Army researchers studied flight patterns for 15 years – more than 1.3 million flights by 4,000 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters – and identified more than 100 different types of maneuvers. They link which specific aircraft parts are most worn out during these maneuvers. The result is a robust AI model that predicts with almost 100% accuracy which critical parts will fail, how and when.
"We know that critical parts of an airplane have a finite lifespan," said army researcher Dr. Mulugeta Haile. "We can use this data to effectively predict the best time to service an aircraft – by looking at how it was flown, not how much it was flown."
This significantly reduces the cost of maintaining the existing fleet – and above all it identifies catastrophic damage before failure, improves mission results and protects our pilots.
Number 3: Smart Swarm Drones
Researchers look to nature to emulate the perfect dynamic flight formation.
Army and academic researchers are developing autonomous, omniscient, swarming drones that can argue and make the best decisions without human interference. Equipped with cameras, these drones look around and see each other and independently explain the size, distance and movement of the other. The agents then communicate with each other. Through some form of machine learning, they mimic each other and decide how to achieve the ideal collective goal.
"Agents need to learn how to process what they see, how to talk to each other and how to move, all through imitation," said Dr. Brian Sadler, Army Senior Research Scientist.
This could lead to a fully autonomous cohesion and decision-making to support our soldiers in the most critical situations.
Number 2: 3D printed ammunition
3D printing revolutionized the convenience and speed with which everyday people create everyday objects. Army scientists are pioneering 3D printing using unique polymers for power and metals – including the tallest steel ever made – to create the next generation of ammunition.
They were the first in the world to demonstrate the creation of 3D structural circuits that revolutionize ammunition ammunition merging and capturing while saving weight and space.
"We're printing materials that no one has printed before and new geometric designs that open up the ammunition trading room," said military researcher Dr. Jason Robinette.
But how durable are they? These 3D-printed ammunition have a high G-survivability – despite the most extreme accelerations that even current ammunition cannot achieve. This will help soldiers in extreme environments and on tomorrow's battlefield.
Number 1: Smart, Navigating Ammunition
Army researchers use the latest technology to create the smartest ammunition that navigates and hits moving targets. With built-in sensors, actuators and an imager, an ammunition executes an algorithm on the tip of the artillery piece as it flies to the target.
Current systems use GPS to navigate to a specific coordinate. This ammunition allows the flight path to be moved – both in initial guidance and in flight – and improves the range and speed of the ammunition to hit a moving target.
"This research will allow us to penetrate faster and have more maneuverability so that we can evade threat systems and reach the target," said Army researcher Dr. Frank Fresconi.
This will be a vital element in ensuring the dominance of the army on land, sea and in the air.
The DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory is part of the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. As the Army's corporate research lab, ARL operationalizes science to reach transformative excess. Through the collaboration between the command's core technical competencies, DEVCOM is at the forefront of discovering, developing and delivering the technology-based skills necessary to enable soldiers to more successfully win the nation's wars and get home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the Army Futures Command.