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7/29/2011
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DARPA Seeks Wireless Power For Soldiers In Field

A method to transmit power over short distances would reduce the need for batteries and cut the load that soldiers carry.

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Slideshow: Next Generation Defense Technologies
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The Department of Defense (DOD) aims to develop a way to recharge electronic devices wirelessly on the battlefield to reduce the number of batteries U.S. Army and Marine Corps soldiers must carry.

The Defense Sciences Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking proposals on a new program aimed at developing short-range, wireless power transmission, according to a solicitation posted on FedBizOpps.gov.

Soldiers already have cable-based power-management systems to power the range of portable electronics they use on the battlefield--which currently include devices such as vest-mounted radios, handheld GPS units, and rifle mounted night-vision scopes. Mobile devices soon may be added to that list, as the Army is piloting several programs to equip soldiers with them.

Cable-based power systems have "proven useful in consolidating the number of batteries" soldiers carry to ensure that they always have the electronics they need, according to the solicitation. However, even these systems are "cumbersome," and the DOD thinks it can do better with a wireless solution.

Such systems already exist commercially and are being used within the military, but DARPA aims to create one custom-built for its needs, the agency said. The problem is that existing solutions "have lower efficiency when scaled down to commonly used batteries such as the AA and CR123 form factors," it said.

The agency is seeking submissions on new concepts and approaches for the wireless transmission of power from a single, high-capacity energy source, according to the solicitation. One idea it's already mulling is to have a high-energy fuel cell or rechargeable battery mounted to a soldier's vest pack that can wirelessly transmit its power to electronic equipment.

This solution would allow the power source to be physically separated from all of the devices soldiers carry, and reduce the "logistical burden" that comes with having different batteries for different devices.

Technology factors that are of particular interest to DARPA are novelty, transmission efficiency, safety and market readiness, it said.

The deadline for submitting proposals is Sept. 15.

What industry can teach government about IT innovation and efficiency. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government: Federal agencies have to shift from annual IT security assessments to continuous monitoring of their risks. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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