Innovative engineering developments make for good news and when those developments include medical improvements it makes for even happier headlines. In the defence sector, however, the headlines are sometimes more muted, yet there are massive innovations and developments taking place.

Whatever your personal opinion about budgets and spending in the defence sector, the simple fact is that we need military vehicles and equipment on land, in the sea and in the air and they need to be equipped with up to date, modern technology and materials if they are to do their job. And it’s not just vehicles and equipment that matter. Developments in fabrics and communication methods also help personnel to do their jobs as safely as possible. Some of those innovations, while being piloted for military use, may also have huge benefits in other sectors.

Let’s look at the testing of a new wearables system for soldiers that took place earlier this year. The Dismounted Close Combat Sensors (DCCS) technology claims to improve the situational awareness on a battlefield and therefore reduces the chance of incidents where friendly forces are mistaken as the enemy. The combination of camera, laser, sensors and GPS technology enables personnel to identify and locate people and vehicles as well as allowing them to communicate with other team members without the need for verbal communication. The emergency services could benefit from developments here, just as much as the armed services. The same sort of technology mounted on a fireman’s kit when entering a burning building would surely save time in identifying where casualties and colleagues are and could save lives.

Unmanned vehicles are another area where there is a huge amount of research and development. If vehicles can be guided into dangerous areas without putting pilots at risk, surely that’s a good thing? A lot of the research and development takes place with the military and defence in mind but again, it’s technology that can be used outside the military and defence sector. Pilots dealing with forest and wild fires risk their lives every time they take a helicopter up. They fly long hours but cannot keep going 24 hours a day. If visibility is poor, they cannot fly.

Last year the Lockheed Martin K-Max previously only used in Afghanistan to move supplies was tested in Idaho in a firefighting capacity. We’ve yet to publicly see the results of the research from that test.

Unmanned Warrior 2016 in October saw a host of companies involved in the defence sector showing off their research and development in unmanned vehicles on land, sea and in the air. Different tasks were completed and in some instances, all 3 areas combined to complete multiple tasks. Major companies such as Thales and BAE Systems took part as well as smaller business and universities

Lightweight body armour and improved methods of bomb disposal utilising the latest developments in robotics are also 2 areas that have seen huge advancements. All these innovations may well be initially developed with military applications in mind, but they can all be used or adapted in a much wider capacity for the emergency services and humanitarian aid projects.

Image Copyright: Mykola Tsap

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