Let Loose the Gremlins of War
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA) has awarded Phase 1 contracts for its Gremlins
program, which seeks to develop innovative technologies
and systems enabling aircraft, including fighters, bombers
and transport planes, to launch volleys of low-cost, reusable unmanned air systems and safely and reliably retrieve
them in midair. The systems, known as gremlins, would be
deployed with a mixture of mission payloads capable of generating a variety of effects, providing U.S. forces improved
operational flexibility at a lower cost than conventional,
The Phase 1 contracts have been awarded to four teams
led by Composite Engineering, Roseville, California; Dynet-ics, Huntsville, Alabama; General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, San Diego; and Lockheed Martin, Dallas.
The program’s first phase is designed to pave the way for
a proof-of-concept flight demonstration that would validate
air recovery of multiple gremlins. Program officials plan
to explore numerous technical areas, including launch and
recovery techniques; equipment and aircraft integration concepts; low-cost, limited-life airframe designs that leverage
existing technology and require only modest modifications
to current aircraft; and high-fidelity analysis, precision digital flight control, relative navigation and station keeping.
Toolkit Targets Patient Self-Help
A new toolkit offered to government sponsors aims to
help patients become effective members of their own health
care team. Developed by MITRE and available for commercial licensing, the toolkit targets the more than half of
Americans who deal with one or more chronic conditions,
either as a patient or as a relative, friend or caregiver.
“We’ve got 117 million people with one or more chronic
conditions,” states Kristina Sheridan, who heads the MITRE
team that developed Patient Toolkit. “In addition, we have
between 34 [million] and 52 million caregivers. Four out
of five health care dollars are spent on their behalf, which
is nearly $2.1 trillion annually. Patient Toolkit has the
potential to achieve substantial cost savings while improving health outcomes.” That includes improving medication
compliance, which MITRE officials say causes an estimated
125,000 deaths annually, accounts for 10 percent of hospital
admissions and results in an estimated $100 billion in additional health care costs annually.
Patient Toolkit is a simply designed, schedule-driven mobile
application. It helps users chart their health data and manage
their days more effectively. They can track their medications,
note when they took them and record how the treatment
affected their symptoms. Handy reminders prompt users to
take their medications on time. In addition, the toolkit allows
users to share their records easily with their caregivers and
health care providers.
To keep battery-dependent troops powered up for longer intervals, Army scientists and engi- neers have developed the Energy Harvesting Assault Pack, or EHAP, engineered to convert
the natural movements of soldiers into usable power.
Designed for Army assault packs, the EHAP consists of a rack and pinion generator with a spring-loaded, double-frame suspension system attached to
a standard rucksack. With each step a soldier takes,
the rucksack glides up and down while the generator captures small amounts of kinetic energy that
would otherwise be lost and converts the energy
into usable electricity.
Radios, GPSs and night vision goggles are just a
few of the electronic devices carried by dismounted
soldiers, and all require batteries that can add up to
15 pounds to a soldier’s already heavy load. While
the standard resupply mission currently is 72 hours,
military operations are becoming increasingly expeditionary—often with a special operations focus—
pushing resupply missions out to five or more days,
say researchers at the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center’s (CERDEC’s) Command, Power and Integration Directorate. Energy harvesting keeps soldiers
plugged in for extended periods, freeing up critical
space in their rucksacks for water, food and ammunition instead of more batteries.
Following the successful demonstration of the
EHAP technology, CERDEC is now responding to
soldier feedback to develop a lighter, more ergo-nomically friendly alternative to reduce the EHAP
frame’s weight and volume and boost its efficiency
without modifying the standard rucksack size.
The Energy Harvesting Assault Pack being developed by
U.S. Army researchers uses energy generated by soldiers’
movement to charge their critical electronic gear.