What to expect at defence trade shows during 2013.
President Obama and defense secretary Leon Panetta announced a new defense strategy earlier this year, one that hinges on the U.S. military becoming “more agile, flexible, innovative, and technically advanced.” The Pentagon intends to meet that challenge by implementing new technologies, ranging from the latest mobile devices and applications to surveillance systems and next-generation aircraft.
This means that we can expect to see some interesting innovations at Defence Trade Shows during 2013. The key areas to look out for are:
DARPA’s Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) program aims to develop a miniscule “air vehicle system” that’s less than 15 centimeters long and weighs less than 20 grams. One experimental design incorporates flapping wings, disguised here as a hummingbird, making it possible for the device to navigate both indoors and outdoors. DARPA expects the NAVs to push the limits of aerodynamics and maneuverability.
Flying Circuit Board
A “disposable aircraft,” the CICADA Mark III is comprised simply of a printed circuit board, which minimizes wiring and makes it fast and inexpensive to assemble. (CICADA stands for Close-In Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft.) Resembling a toy airplane, it can accommodate light payloads, such as chemical, biological, and other signals intelligence sensors. Other electronic payloads can be incorporated by updating the circuit board and “re-winging” the aircraft.
Credit: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
Some projects promise a better life for wounded soldiers. Last September, a mechanical arm was controlled by a volunteer with tetraplegia (characterized by loss of use of the limbs and torso) via his brain signals, a breakthrough in the control of a prosthetic arm. Development of the prosthetic limb was overseen by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, with funding from the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Next, UPMC and Caltech researchers will conduct trials aimed at achieving brain control of advanced mechanical limbs by volunteers with spinal cord injuries in DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program.