By Dan Lafontaine, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering CommandNovember 15, 2013
WASHINGTON (Nov. 14, 2013) -- The U.S. Army showcased how its research and engineering centers are enabling advances in operational energy for Soldiers Nov. 14 at the Pentagon.
Subject matter experts from across the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command discussed their work in technologies that included Soldier-borne electronics, ground-vehicle fuel efficiency and sustainable base camps.
Dan Rusin, staff engineer for power and energy at RDECOM headquarters, said the command's scientists and engineers provide the underpinnings for most of the hardware on display by the Army's Program Executive Office Soldier and Rapid Equipping Force at the Pentagon.
"No one effort is going to solve any power and energy problem. It's going to be collective of many, many efforts," Rusin said. "RDECOM technology went into two-thirds of what you see here today.
"RDECOM is doing research and making the connections. In power and energy, there are a lot of connections with the commercial world. How do we as military engineers fit commercial technologies that are often installed by licensed electricians and make it simple and safe for a sergeant or field commander to use?"
Three RDECOM organizations -- the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center; Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center; and Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center -- discussed their power and energy efforts with Pentagon military and civilian workers throughout the day.
Senior Army leaders who visited RDECOM's exhibits included Under Secretary of the Army Dr. Joseph W. Westphal; Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III; Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment; and RDECOM Director Dale A. Ormond.
LOGISTICS AND SUSTAINABILITY FOR BASE CAMPS
Ben Campbell, an NSRDEC mechanical engineer, is the lead systems engineer for Technology Enabled Capability Demonstration 4a that addresses logistics and sustainability for base camps.
RDECOM will be conducting a physical demonstration of technologies next year at a Fort Devens, Mass., integrated base camp lab.
"We're working with the other RDECs for technologies that help us meet our goals of reducing energy use and waste at base camps," Campbell said. "We're looking to reduce fuel consumption by 25 percent, water resupply needs by 75 percent and waste generation by 50 percent. We'll be doing a side-by-side comparison of the baseline base camp and our integrated solutions set base camp to understand how these technologies are helping us meet our operational energy reduction goals."
The technologies being tested include waste-to-energy conversion, reducing energy consumption from generators, solar panels, and water re-use. The demonstration at Fort Devens will allow engineers to complement the modeling and simulation tools already in use, Campbell said.
"When we have new a technology effort coming in, we can put those technical parameters and metrics into a modeling tool to then understand the impacts of the technology in a base camp. We'll be conducting the physical demonstration to calibrate that tool and get operationally relevant data to refine it," he said.
ADVANCES IN GROUND-VEHICLE FUEL EFFICIENCY
TARDEC mechanical engineer Robert Berlin discussed the Fuel Efficient Ground Vehicle Demonstrator Alpha and Bravo.
Army engineers integrated technologies to demonstrate state-of-the-art fuel-efficient vehicle design. Key features of the FED Bravo include an integrated starter generator, prismatic lithium-ion advanced battery, lightweight carbon-fiber body panels and low-rolling-resistance tires.
"The FED program highlights a lot of different areas that we work in, including fuels, lubrications, lightweight structures, and powertrain development and testing," Berlin said. "We have our hands in developing the entire ground system suite. It's a highlight of everything that TARDEC does."
Berlin said the trucks' technologies are complete, and the next step is to work with the Army's program managers to incorporate those advancements into existing and future ground systems.
CERDEC is focusing on power management and how the Army can reduce the power consumption of the systems that a Soldier carries, said Ed Plichta, chief of the Power Division within CERDEC's Command, Power and Integration Directorate.
Plichta's team is looking to develop technology that identifies which of a Soldier's power consumers are drawing the largest load and provide that additional information to the Soldier. This could help Soldiers extend their mission times by allowing them to actively monitor their devices.
"For many years, most of the focus has been on developing power sources for the Soldier that are lighter, smaller, cost-effective," Plichta said. "We've achieved many milestones in bringing down the weight of what the Soldier is carrying, specifically in batteries. We've introduced renewable-energy capabilities so you can re-charge those batteries in the field.
"Energy-informed operations is an aspect of power management so the Soldier will know through applications on his handheld devices what the status of energy is. Squad leaders and company commanders will be able to get that information through the network so they can better ascertain what the energy status is among the small units."
RDECOM is also integral to developing the software and platforms to ensure that power systems connect with each other and work together, Rusin said. Without these essential connections, the technology will be a hindrance to a Soldier in combat.
"We're trying to make not just technology and hardware, but make decision-making software to inform the commander and Soldiers on how to better use energy," Rusin said. "There is a combination between the technology that you can see and the technology that you cannot see.
"Many of the decision-making algorithms are invisible to the external community. It's important to connect the hardware in a way that people can use it."
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.