Solar-Powered Wearable Tech Lightens Marines' Loads - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Government // Mobile & Wireless
News
2/27/2014
08:45 AM
Patience Wait
Patience Wait
Slideshows
50%
50%

Solar-Powered Wearable Tech Lightens Marines' Loads

US Marines use backpack-mounted solar panels developed by the Office of Naval Research to fuel battery-powered gear in the battlefield.
Previous
1 of 7
Next

Whether you wear your technology or carry it with you, one thing doesn't change: the need to keep your electronic gear charged.

That presents a special problem for US troops moving into remote areas. Packing extra batteries for their GPS equipment, radios, and night-vision goggles adds a lot of weight to packs that weigh 125 pounds or more. Relying on generators to recharge batteries brings another set of logistic challenges and requires a steady supply of fuel.

To address the problem, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) led the development of the Marine Austere Patrolling System (MAPS), which combines solar power and an individual water purifier to help lighten Marines' loads when they are in remote locations. The combination of functions makes sense; normally Marines sent on a mission also must carry their own water supplies, which adds to their burden.

"The Marine Corps currently uses two versions of its primary battery," a rechargeable and non-rechargeable lithium battery, said Capt. Frank Furman, logistics program manager for ONR’s Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department. The batteries -- about the size and weight of a brick -- primarily power radios and other equipment, such as radio-frequency jamming devices used to combat radio-controlled IEDs, he said.

In addition, Marines carry GPS systems, night-vision goggles, and other equipment that require their own batteries. Furman said Marines on a 24-hour mission might need four batteries, but would carry eight to provide a margin of error.

Furman said his team "wants to bypass all those different batteries and power them off a single central battery. At the same time, we want to be able to charge that battery via a flexible [photovoltaic] panel," he said. "This would not only eliminate some of your battery needs, but eliminate your need to carry different types of spares."

The prototype design relies on a flexible solar panel roughly the size of a piece of paper, developed by the Naval Research Laboratory, and a new, more flexible battery "that offers similar performance but in a flatter package," he said. "Instead of a rigid brick strapped to your body, you have a flexible package that's much more ergonomically friendly."

In a recent field test with the 1st Battalion 5th Marines at the Mountain Warfare Training Center, the wearable solar-powered system proved its worth when the Marines carrying the MAPS were the only ones whose radios still had power.

The MAPS program continues to undergo testing in the field to look for ways to improve the system. The Naval Research Laboratory and its vendors are refining the solar technology to improve their performance. Delve into our slideshow to take a closer look at the project.

(Image: US Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office)

Wyatt Kash contributed to this report.

 

Washington-based Patience Wait contributes articles about government IT to InformationWeek. View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Previous
1 of 7
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Kristin Burnham
50%
50%
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
2/27/2014 | 8:47:38 PM
Re: Solar chargers
I'd probably use an external battery pack over a solar charger. Like Wyatt mentioned, solar chargers aren't that efficient (yet).
WKash
50%
50%
WKash,
User Rank: Author
2/27/2014 | 4:56:12 PM
Re: Solar chargers
I've tried a solar charger in the past, back in the day when FEMA were urging everyone to have a family emergency survival kit. It was painfully slow. The technology is definitely improving.  Hard to know what these units cost (they're still in protype), but I suspect it will be a while before the prices come down enough for consumers to consider buying one.
Laurianne
50%
50%
Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
2/27/2014 | 2:52:01 PM
Solar chargers
Sometimes warrior tech trickles down to road warriors. How many of you would like a solar charger for your cell phone or tablet?
InformationWeek Is Getting an Upgrade!

Find out more about our plans to improve the look, functionality, and performance of the InformationWeek site in the coming months.

News
Remote Work Tops SF, NYC for Most High-Paying Job Openings
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  7/20/2021
Slideshows
Blockchain Gets Real Across Industries
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  7/22/2021
Commentary
Seeking a Competitive Edge vs. Chasing Savings in the Cloud
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  7/19/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Monitoring Critical Cloud Workloads Report
In this report, our experts will discuss how to advance your ability to monitor critical workloads as they move about the various cloud platforms in your company.
Slideshows
Flash Poll