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Army Technology Magazine
The May/June 2014 issue of Army Technology Magazine focuses on the Soldier of the future. Download the current issue by following the link below in Related Files.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (May 21, 2014) -- Ten to 20 years ago, Army scientists were taking on tough challenges, thinking of the future and wondering how to help American warriors win decisively through technological advantages.

"That's the strength of Army basic research and the essence of our work at the Lab," said Dr. Patrick J. Baker, director of the laboratory's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, U.S. Army Research Laboratory. "We're taking multidisciplinary approaches to push the frontiers of fundamental science and technology that result in transformational capabilities."

ARL teams with academia and industry, and other government partners to invest in science and engineering as well as manufacturing expertise needed to drive innovation, she said.

The Army is on the brink of transitioning prototype technologies to military users who need them most, like protective robots.

Imagine a squad of Soldiers on patrol, followed by a team of unmanned air and ground vehicles, suddenly coming under fire. But before the enemy can get a clear enough view of the Soldiers in his sights, the air vehicles sense the location of the enemy and informs the unmanned ground vehicle, which rolls open and deploys a protective shield around the Soldiers. That's one kind of protection Army scientists are imagining for future warriors.

Right now, this capability is purely conceptual, according to Dr. Shawn Walsh, a researcher leading the Agile Manufacturing Technology team at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

"We're in the early stages of understanding how far we can push current unmanned systems technology," Walsh said. "We have built a lot of support for it and it's pointing to a horizon 10 to 20 years into the future."

As called project CLASP, or Co-Located Assets for Soldier Protection, is a novel use of new unmanned assets in a purely protective role instead of the typical drone usage focused on surveillance and lethality.

"RDECOM [U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command] is well-positioned to not only help set the vision for this concept, but lead novel and unprecedented research to improve and diversify the goal of Soldier protection," Walsh said.

Walsh said CLASP will protect Soldiers in ways not possible before.

"In essence, there is a confluence of technological advances that are making possible new ways of doing the business of Soldier protection," he said.

Elias Rigas, the Vehicle Applied Research division chief in the ARL Vehicle Technology Directorate, is another researcher involved in CLASP's early work.

"It's important for the Army to pursue cutting-edge, high-risk, high-reward research and also to consider how new technologies developed at the lab can potentially be used to help support Soldiers," Rigas said. "Implementation of technologies in new and out-of-the-box ways can also lead to capabilities that enhance Soldiers' survivability, lethality and effectiveness."

Researchers hope their efforts are an investment in the future.

"A great thing about working in the Army lab is that we have a lot of smart people with open minds working in different areas. If you discover or invent something revolutionary that may be big payoff, it won't be tossed aside just because it is different than how the Army fights today. For a scientist who wants to have an impact, that keeps you pretty excited," Baker said.

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The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.

Page last updated Wed May 21st, 2014 at 00:00