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June 22, 2020 . 4min read
When it comes to the defense industry, technology is advancing by leaps and bounds. Some of the innovations that were once considered downright futuristic are now very close to operational rollout. Identifying the technology trends that will shape the future of the defense industry is complex. It can be hard to determine which breakthroughs are most likely to make their way into tomorrow’s defense solutions.
Looking at the technologies attracting investments on other markets and assessing their economic viability is one fact-based way of gaining insights into the future of defense technologies. Robotics, artificial intelligence, mobility, and energy are where the money is going to go. A survey of the latest industry research shows that astronomical investments are being funneled into a selection of technologies with bright futures on profitable markets. Artificial intelligence and big data, for example, are expected to impact the economy to the tune of $6 trillion by 2025. And autonomous vehicles could prevent 1.5 million road traffic deaths within the same time horizon.
R&D is being and will continue to be funded massively. The huge investments being made in these technologies will position companies operating in the defense industry to address the market with mature solutions that are ready to be commercialized.
Read on to learn about three technological innovations for the defense industry and, specifically, for infantry soldiers, armored vehicles, and battlefield security.
Support for infantry soldiers
Today’s world is becoming increasingly connected, and battlefield operations are no exception. To respond more rapidly and in a coordinated manner, military vehicles, drones, and infantry soldiers all exchange data on the battlefield.
IT services giant Atos is planning to bring 4G mobile telecommunications and connected devices to the battlefield. The company has developed a software suite for high-speed data transmission between a soldier’s smartphone, radio headset, and a box that connects to civil and military 4G networks. And solutions like assault rifles with connected shot counters, drones capable of following a preconfigured trajectory, and touch-enabled watches that can send out SOS signals have already been tested by soldiers. On the command side, hardened tablets can be used to locate troops and give orders in real time.
This type of connectivity is making inroads into major defense programs. France’s Directorate General for Armament (DGA) is engaged in the multinational Scorpion program to develop and deploy integrated equipment and communications for infantry. In 2022, the Scorpion program will begin work to integrate robots and mini-drones into combat systems. These unmanned, connected systems are designed to limit infantry soldiers’ exposure to potential threats while bringing combat units a decisive advantage in terms of their intelligence-gathering and response capabilities.
Infantry soldiers are particularly exposed. In the future, they could potentially exchange information securely and in real time with all other battlefield operations stakeholders. Tomorrow’s technologies will provide access to information from other soldiers and from vehicles and will provide tactical support based on the most accurate and up-to-the-minute data from the battlefield. The performance of the entire system will also depend on the effective use of many sensors on the ground.
To process and analyze all of the information collected by these sensors, AI and big data technologies will be a must. The overriding objective is to support infantry soldiers in combat situations by providing solutions that improve soldiers’ responsiveness.
Innovations for armored vehicles
The Caméléon project is leveraging three innovations: camouflage in the visible and thermal infrared spectral bands, environmental analysis using sensors, and automated camouflage adjustment by deep learning algorithms.
Bispectral systems for armored vehicles will deliver the advantages of MWIR (recognition and identification) combined with those of LWIR (long-range target detection).
Camouflage systems will make tanks more difficult to detect. In one French Army test, it took a full minute to detect a tank equipped with this new technology at 1,000 meters; with conventional technology it could be detected in just eight seconds.
According to one French Army Officer, with more and more powerful sensors on the battlefield, conventional camouflage technologies are obsolete. The French Army is also investigating solutions to allow a tank’s colors to change to blend in with its environment in less than two hours.
The Caméléon project is looking at pixelated, connected tiles that would be used to clad the tank’s exterior. With up to eight different colors, the tiles would automatically adapt to the tank’s surroundings. Sensors and a computer would determine the most effective camouflage.
Bringing robotics to the battlefield
In October 2018, French Army Chief of Staff General Jean-Pierre Bosser stated his position in testimony given before the French General Assembly’s Defense Commission. “My main priority in terms of innovation is robotization and the capacity to design and build machines that lighten soldiers’ loads on the battlefield and that also serve as robots with a certain intelligence.” Autonomous robotic pack horses are currently able to transport weapons and equipment and, in some cases, evacuate the wounded.
An initial test was completed in late March at the French Army’s CENZUB urban operations training center, with plans to continue testing on a dozen heavy robots deployed in foreign theaters of operations. According to an article in French daily La Tribune, the first test rollout will be in Mali in the second half of 2020.
To imagine the future of defense technology, you have to look at the highly-technical aspects of the market and the potential solutions. But creativity, curiosity, and imagination are also essential. This is what makes defense technology so fascinating and complex.
At first glance, the land-based weapons industry might not appear to be as exciting as the aeronautics, space, or naval industries. It is, however a highly-complex and remarkably-demanding industry. The battlefield decides: When faced with an adversary capable of knowing and controlling the terrain, you have to put the most advanced possible technology in your men’s hands. A race to deploy the most advanced technology at all cost is not the answer, however. The defense industry will be seeking the right balance between science, strategy, forward planning, and practicality.
If you are interested in learning how technology is being used in a completely different industry, download our agriculture and food manufacturing industry datasheet.