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01 Apr 21. US Air Force proves it can transport a ‘flying car’ on a C-130. Now for the fun part. The U.S. Air Force will begin testing in May whether it can use one of the “flying cars” under development for the commercial market for military missions, including rescuing troops, delivering cargo and conducting security checks over an airfield.
But first the service had to answer a simpler question: Could one of these electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) aircraft fit into a military cargo plane and safely be transported?
The Air Force attempted to prove that during a demonstration held March 23-24, when the 355th Wing from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona successfully used an HC-130J Combat King II to move Lift Aircraft’s Hexa platform from Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport in Ohio to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas.
The demo was part of the service’s Agility Prime effort, through which the Air Force hopes to accelerate the development of eVTOL technologies and ensure the U.S. military retains access to them.
“We’re trying to take acquisition and do it differently,” said James Bieryla, the division chief responsible for Agility Prime at the service’s AFWERX innovation cell.
“Instead of putting a very rigid set of requirements on a company, we’re almost doing the opposite. We’re saying: ‘You know what, why don’t you show us what you can do?’ We say that to perhaps a dozen companies. … We help usher them through and accelerate them,” he said. “And on the back end, hopefully what happens is we end up with 12 or more commercially viable, successful companies, many of whom will have military utility in lots of different areas.”
The Air Force kicked off Agility Prime in February 2020 and since then has identified six companies as potential partners, according to Air Force Magazine: Phenix Solutions, Joby Aviation, Elroy Air, Moog, Beta Technologies and Lift Aircraft. In December, Joby’s S4 aircraft was the first eVTOL design to receive airworthiness approval from the service.
The end goal is to transition eVTOL technologies into a program of record by 2023, Bieryla said.
“That is a very aggressive goal,” he noted. “This demonstration here in May is going to be great for us to actually get a firsthand look right from operators into the technology.”
Last week’s demonstration was accomplished with little fanfare and no significant challenges, officials from the Air Force and Lift Aircraft told Defense News on March 26.
The Hexa aircraft is comprised of an egg-shaped fuselage positioned on four perimeter floats, which allow it to land on water. On top sits a web of 18 electric motors arranged in a hexagonal pattern similar to that of honeycomb.
To package Hexa for transit, Lift Aircraft separated the motors and some additional hardware, and folded down the beams that connect the motors to the aircraft’s fuselage, said Jace McCown, the firm’s flight development engineer and chief pilot.
Once the Hexa was compressed and safely stored with all of its support equipment, Air Force personnel tested out how to load it onto the C-130, eventually choosing to use the aircraft’s ramp system to push it into the cargo bay, said Tech Sgt. Joseph Wruck, who helped support the load tests as part of the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron.
The process of loading the Hexa and support equipment took about 45 minutes, but that timeline could probably be condensed into 15 minutes, Wruck said. And while only one Hexa aircraft was transported during the demonstration, Wruck estimated that a C-130H could carry up to four Hexa platforms, with newer C-130J models potentially able to transport five or six at a time.
Finally, the HC-130J took off, flying the Hexa stored inside its cargo bay from Ohio to Texas.
In May, the Air Force will repeat the process as part of Exercise Bushwhacker, when the 355th Wing simulates rescue and attack missions in austere environments.
VTOL platforms with quiet electric engines and simple sustainment footprints could become key to the Air Force as it figures out how to operate away from large airfields, a concept known as agile combat employment, or ACE.
Should the U.S. go to war against Russia or China, the service predicts its main operating bases in Europe or the Asia-Pacific region could be temporarily or permanently knocked out by enemy fire. In response, the Air Force hopes to shift to a more disaggregated style of fighting, where discrete packages of aircraft are temporarily deployed to smaller airfields across the globe that may not have large runways or established amenities.
Electric VTOL aircraft capable of landing without a runway could be used to ferry troops and supplies needed to stand up operations, while also providing a platform for crisis response.
During Exercise Bushwhacker, airmen will practice transporting, unloading and reassembling the Hexa — a process that should take about two to three hours, according to McCown.
From there, Hexa will be put through its paces in a number of scenarios, such as delivering supplies or rescuing a stranded troop on the ground, said Maj. Brennan Gallagher, 563rd Rescue Group’s chief of weapons and tactics and the lead planner for 355th Wing’s Agility Prime integration.
“If someone has a single engine failure outside the wire and then needs to get picked up, instead of risking a convoy going out, we could send one of these Lift Hexas out there,” he said. “Hexa would fly to those coordinates, land, pick up someone. In this case, we’re looking to use a crash dummy, which we call Rescue Randy.”
Right now, Hexa’s abilities are limited and geared toward the commercial recreation market. The aircraft has room for one person and can fly for about 10-15 minutes, depending on the payload. A person can learn to fly Hexa quickly because many of the flight systems are automated, but Lift plans to develop a fully automated version, McCown said.
In the future, the platform could potentially serve as an armed overwatch aircraft to protect ground troops, Gallagher said.
However, there are still missions that the aircraft could be suited for in its current configuration. For instance, while Hexa can’t carry as much weight as required to satisfy certain logistics missions, it could transfer smaller cargo or serve as a vehicle that allows security forces to assess the status of an airfield, said Lt. Col. Shane Hughes, commander of the 621st Contingency Response Support Squadron.
“It can zip around the airfield really quick with our security forces specialists; they can do a quick assessment and then that saves them a significant amount of time,” he said.
McCown added that Lift is open to incorporating military users’ feedback into future iterations of the aircraft.
“There’s a lot of potential with this airframe, and we’re currently working through AFWERX to kind of explore the next level of what is possible with this,” he said. “We’re currently executing flight tests out in Ohio under a [Small Business Innovation Research Phase II contract], and we are exploring the next steps with the Air Force right now as far as what kind of support [is needed] to get us to reach some of those longer-term goals that the operators have.”
By being involved in the development of eVTOL platforms at an early stage, the Air Force hopes to steer the evolution of the technology into a form that it can use.
“We certainly understand that this is not the final configuration right now,” Bieryla said. “We’re working forward. We’re going to keep developing, we’re going to keep coming up with improvements. But … if we can get early operator involvement in this technology, it helps everybody.” (Source: Defense News)
30 Mar 21. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and CP Technologies Team to Manufacture Portable Aircraft Control Station for the U.S. Air Force. Mobile Military-Grade Workstations Provide a Platform for High Speed Processing Capabilities on the Ground with Three, 24-Inch Multi-Touch Displays. CP Technologies has teamed with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. to design and manufacture the Portable Aircraft Control Station (PACS) for the US Air Force. The PACS is a rugged, compact system, capable of performing all direct connect aircraft pre- and post-flight operations and engine functions. It will replace the standard Ruggedized Aircraft Maintenance Test Station (RAMTS) with a self-contained rugged portable system for downrange deployment. The system consists of 3 x 24-inch multi-touch displays with an Intel XEON processors allowing powerful processing functionality with enhanced human interface capability. The system provides a compact and cost-effective solution for today’s Air Force.
“Our expertise in designing, fabricating and integrating highly versatile expeditionary workstations makes us an attractive industry partner to serve the military, industrial and commercial markets,” said Mark Kempf, vice president CP Technologies & CP Systems at CP Technologies. “The long-term support we offer for our products via revision control, componentry road mapping, configuration management, and our standard 5-year warranty also provides us with a unique competitive advantage.”
About CP Tech Expeditionary Work Stations
CP Technologies’ expeditionary workstations provide a platform for versatile, high speed processing capabilities in a mobile military-grade system. Offered in assembled transit case and portable “briefcase” form factors, these workstations are the ideal solution for a mobile and versatile ground station application while out in harsh, real-world environments. The workstations built by CP Technologies can be custom tailored to meet the specific needs of the operators with optional additions such as capacitive touchscreens, specialized input ports, switches, routers, data links, or other integrated 3rd-party equipment for a fully mobile all-in-one solution.
About CP Technologies
CP Technologies designs, fabricates and integrates standard and customized high-performance computing platforms and LCD monitors for military, industry, and commercial applications. Using COTS components, CP Technologies provides solutions for customers who need reliable systems that will operate in a variety of harsh conditions and who require revision control and hardware consistency for multi-year programs. CP Technologies is an ITAR Registered and ISO 9001:2015 Certified business that has been operating in Southern California for over twenty years. For more information, please visit https://cp-techusa.com.
CP Technologies is also proud to announce the opening of the new CP North America Headquarters in Prescott, Arizona. The new facility will be home to the CP North America family of brands including CP Technologies, CP Systems, and CP Aeronautics. The all-new headquarters building is part of the ongoing growth of the CP brand and reflects the much-needed expansion in our capabilities as a manufacturer to meet the needs of our customers. Look forward to even more exciting news from us in the future and be sure to stand by for information on our new factory’s Grand Opening Event!
(Source: PR Newswire)
31 Mar 21. Dstl unveils new Exploration Division. The new division will identify and accelerate transformative technologies, systems, concepts and strategies for defence and security. As part of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), Exploration Division will pinpoint futuristic high impact ideas with the greatest potential. Such ideas could be ‘over the horizon’ technologies, next generation concepts or existing systems that could be adapted for Defence and Security. The initiative will increase Dstl’s ability to shape generation-after-next equipment and strategy for the armed forces while continuing to support current operational requirements.
Exploration Division will use AI and data analytics to scan the horizon for transformative technologies such as quantum sensing or quantum cryptography, neuromorphic computing, and telexistence. It will incubate the most promising of these and will imagine entirely new systems to provide the UK’s armed forces and security forces with game changing capabilities to create strategic advantage over future adversaries.
It will draw on Dstl’s expertise in horizon scanning, systems thinking, wargaming, simulation, social science and operational research to explore novel tactics and strategies and driving the transition of good ideas into conceptual force design and anticipatory policy.
Involving suppliers and customers throughout this process will provide a safe space in which to challenge accepted plans, and is designed to provide the stimulus for wider innovation in Defence and Security. Dstl will find new things no one else has done before, prove their worth, and help customers deliver them, or manage the risk from them.
Professor Andy Bell, Dstl’s Chief Technical Officer, said, “The creation of Exploration Division will secure Dstl a leading role in shaping the future of Defence and Security. Identifying novel concepts and accelerating research and development will bring future systems and technologies into service quicker and more cost-effectively. This will enhance UK security by providing innovative and word-leading equipment to our forces, as well as transformative concepts of operation and strategies with which to achieve success.” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
30 Mar 21. TE Connectivity brings single pair Ethernet to the skies and front lines. TE’s new single pair Ethernet cable delivers smaller, lighter, and faster data transmission.
TE Connectivity (TE), a world leader in connectivity and sensors, introduces Raychem Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) cable, which provides faster data rates in a smaller, lighter solution. The SPE cable is designed to be durable and versatile to operate in harsh environments applications such as commercial and military aerospace, defense, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, and space.
“The single pair Ethernet cable allows commercial and defense customers to maintain data rates, while reducing size and weight by up to 75 percent when compared to existing Quadrax systems,” said Lynden Bajus, product manager for TE’s Aerospace, Defense and Marine division. “TE’s ability to ruggedize an automotive standard to help meet the harsh environment requirements in aerospace, defense and marine markets, has allowed us to focus on improving size and weight parameters for our customers while continuing to maintain critical data rate needs.”
The Raychem SPE cable delivers 100 Mb/s or 1 Gb/s in a single pair construction. The cables are standardized under the ARINC 854 cabin equipment network bus standard and are available in both 24 and 26 AWG, with a temperature range of -65°C up to +150°C.
The cable complements the previously released 369 shielded connectors and completes the new Mini-ETH single pair ethernet system from TE. This system reduces termination time and simplifies maintenance when compared to standard eight-wire cables and rectangular connectors. The full Mini-ETH system is designed to support In-Flight Entertainment systems, seat power, avionics, lighting controls, and is intended to anticipate the needs of the growing eVTOL vehicle market.
TE’s Mini-ETH system consists of a range of time-tested TE products, including:
- 369 shielded connectors
- SPE cable
- End-to-end Ethernet assemblies
For more information on TE’s Mini-ETH single pair Ethernet system, visit the Mini-ETH landing page.
29 Mar 21. Google ex-CEO has a plan for US to stay ahead of China’s government-backed tech. With China sinking money into emerging technology, the U.S. government and its tech businesses need a new approach to stay ahead on artificial intelligence, microelectronics and other key military innovations, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said.
While a free-market country isn’t going to underwrite technology development like China does, the U.S. needs a more assertive role, he said Thursday at a conference. And U.S. companies can’t keep pace with Chinese innovation on their own. Instead, he proposed a government-industry alliance to keep the country’s technical edge.
“Keeping things exactly the same however is not going to work. It’s not a winning strategy because large tech firms cannot be expected to compete with the resources of China or make a big nationwide investment in the United States,” said Schmidt, a chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. “We need some help. We need a hybrid approach that more aligns government and industry to win.”
For example, the U.S. could follow the AI commission’s recommendation to incentivize domestic manufacturing of microelectronics through refundable tax credits for investment and boost micro-systems research and development by $12bn over the next five years, Schmidt said.
Leaders fear that China could threaten national security if the U.S. doesn’t increase investment in newer technologies. Schmidt argued that government is responsible for driving research and development priorities.
“[In] the changing landscape, government must take a hands-on approach to national technology competitiveness, promoting a diverse and resilient research and development ecosystem and commercial sector in a government responsibility,” Schmidt said Thursday at National Defense Industrial Association’s National Security Artificial Intelligence Conference. “No private sector company, no matter how successful, can really pull that off.”
Schmidt identified priority technologies that will define this century: artificial intelligence, 5G networks, biotechnology, quantum computing and microelectronics. The U.S must “strive for self-reliance in these industries,” he said.
The most critical is microelectronics because they underpin AI, quantum and 5G advances, Schmidt said.
The recent report from the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence said the U.S. needs to stay two generations ahead of China on microelectronics. But a significant problem the U.S. faces is that much of the microelectronics factories are in Asia, raising supply chain security concerns.
The government has to correct for any market failures that have led to underinvestment in some of these areas, he said. Government funding also has the power to focus researchers on a particular topic.
“In other areas, seizing a market opportunity may only be possible if the federal government does a focusing effort where it focuses the private sector and academia on a specific goal,” Schmidt said.
Earlier in the conference, lawmakers and the director of the Defense Innovation Unit echoed Schmidt’s comments and called for a boost in federal funding for basic research. Michael Brown, head of DIU, said that broad federal funding has immense benefits.
“I think one of the advantages of federally funded R&D is you get a longer-term time horizon and some willingness to take risk,” Brown said.
(Source: Defense News)
29 Mar 21. Pentagon tech office asks industry for ‘leap-ahead capabilities.’ The Pentagon’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office wants industry to pitch “highly innovative” technologies that could benefit war fighters in future wars.
The office, which focuses on prototyping technologies for DoD modernization priorities, released its 2021 Global Needs Statement on March 24 on beta.sam.gov. The office wants to hear from companies about products across these priority areas: artificial intelligence/machine learning; autonomy; biotechnology; cyber; directed energy; fully networked command, communication, and control; hypersonics; microelectronics; quantum; space; 5G; and other disruptive technologies.
“RRTO is looking for highly innovative technologies that have the potential to provide leap-ahead capabilities against near-peer adversaries and fill gaps in critical joint mission needs no later than 2028,” the document said.
RRTO will hold meetings this fall with companies. The office is looking for technologies that have demonstrated a proof of concept or have been validated in a lab. The goal is to prototype the innovation to a technology readiness level 6, or a “relevant environment demonstration,” and transition it to an interested service or agency.
“Solutions are expected to derive from companies’ internal research and development (IR&D) or other research efforts and suitable for maturation through DoD prototyping funding, but not mature enough to be Commercial Off-the-Shelf products,” the solicitation stated.
Just this week, defense officials and lawmakers called for increased investment in basic research and commercial capabilities. Defense Innovation Unit Director Mike Brown said that the slowing of federal research and development funds must be countered by commercial technology investment.
“Federal R&D is declining as a percentage of the economy, [and] it’s flattening out in dollar terms,” Brown said during a webcast. “Meanwhile, the commercial sector has moved ahead quite dramatically.”
The department also recently established a center of excellence in California for networked command, control and communications as part of an effort to develop large-scale communications networks that can enable the Pentagon’s joint war-fighting concept.
A recently released report by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence warned that the U.S. needs to boost investment in research and development in AI, also sounding the alarm on the lack of manufacturing in the U.S. for microelectronics, which underpin technologies like artificial intelligence and 5G networks. The report recommended federal tax credits for companies that invest in domestic microelectronics production.
Officials this week said that the U.S. government needs to be more assertive in influencing investment in these technology areas, while boosting federal research and development funds, including the pool for defense projects.
“Defense-funded, basic, early-stage and applied research helps us maintain our competitive edge on the battlefield, but also improves civilians lives,” said Rep. Jim Langevin, R-R.I, on a webinar. “I urge my colleagues to support defense research as much as possible. It pays untold dividends going forward.” (Source: Defense News
28 Mar 21. BAE Systems is taking decades of flight controls expertise underwater onboard the UK’s next generation submarine, Dreadnought. This innovative approach involves adapting controls that are usually used in fly-by-wire aircraft and applying them in a marine environment.
The complete Active Vehicle Control Management (AVCM) system will oversee all major aspects of the submarines’ manoeuvering capability to the highest levels of safety and reliability, similar to existing systems on modern air transport platforms.
Jon Tucker, Director for Maritime Controls at BAE Systems Controls and Avionics, said: “With over 50 years of avionics experience, we already have a great understanding of how to develop complex, control systems for hi-tech platforms. However, taking our technology underwater brings exciting new challenges and we are proud to support the Dreadnought programme and play an important part in our national security effort.”
Similar to how fly-by-wire works for aircraft – whereby electronic systems are used to control the movement of aircraft – our engineers are developing electronics that control the heading, pitch, depth and buoyancy of the Dreadnought class among other critical elements with added safety benefits.
Work has already begun, supporting more than 130 highly skilled jobs in Rochester, UK, with the number expected to grow. The programme is one of the largest development projects taking place at the Rochester site and we have made significant investments at the site to create new labs and workspaces to support this exciting programme.
The project marks the first time that major Royal Navy work has taken place in the Medway Towns since the Chatham Dockyard closure more than 25 years ago. The Dockyard itself was synonymous with the building of ships and submarines for centuries, up to the Royal Navy Submarine, HMS Ocelot, being built there in 1962.
The innovation has been developed in Rochester with engineers in our Electronic Systems business working closely with colleagues across the Company’s Maritime and Air sectors to develop a world-class system as part of our Active Vehicle Control One-Team. Our engineers will continue to develop the technologies with a view to expanding its applications to both other underwater and surface vessels.
26 Mar 21. ASC launches digital transformation programme.
- ASC digital transformation will introduce cutting-edge technologies to optimise its capabilities to support the Royal Australian Navy’s Collins Class submarine fleet, now and into the future
- Will keep ASC at the top of submarine sustainment innovation, facilitating more streamlined processes, enhanced systems integration, and expanded use of real-time data
- The new systems will ensure ASC employees are skilled in the latest digital systems, will streamline their work and provide greater job satisfaction
ASC’s critical business systems will be significantly enhanced through a sweeping digital transformation. This comprehensive programme will set the ground for ASC’s digital shipyard transition: facilitating more streamlined processes, enhanced integration between systems, and the expanded use of real-time data to drive optimised decision-making across the organisation.
ASC’s digital transformation programme will strengthen its Enterprise Resource Planning system and introduce cutting-edge technologies to enable its workforce and optimise its capabilities to support the sovereign sustainment of the Royal Australian Navy’s Collins Class submarine fleet, now and into the future.
ASC Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Stuart Whiley, said, “The digital transformation is important to ensure that ASC continues to deliver Collins Class availability at beyond international benchmarks for the Royal Australian Navy, in terms of costs, function and availability.
“This project will keep ASC at the cutting-edge of submarine sustainment innovation. It will ensure we maintain an efficient, cost conscious culture as we continue to deliver world-class service and value for money to the Royal Australian Navy,” Mr Whiley said.
“ASC is committed to the growth and development of its employees. The new systems will ensure they are skilled in the latest digital systems, streamline their work and provide greater job satisfaction.
“Our people will be better equipped to do their jobs by working with real-time data, integrative platforms and improved knowledge-sharing that will enable them to focus on the areas of their expertise.
“Aligning our digital systems with our suppliers will realise additional productivity improvements.
“The project will create approximately 35 new jobs, based across South Australia and Western Australia.”
It will be coordinated and delivered by ASC’s implementation partner, professional services consultancy Deloitte.
Deloitte Australia National Maritime Leader, and Lead Engagement Partner, Jesse Sherwood, said, “Deloitte is incredibly proud to be selected as ASC’s implementation partner. We are excited about sharing our broad and deep expertise in delivering complex transformation programmes with ASC to help them digitise and modernise sustainment, while innovating to future-proof their business.”
The transformation will utilise enterprise resource planning solution IFS which is highly regarded for its seamless integration of different functions. IFS Australia and New Zealand Managing Director, Warren Zietsman, said, “After a competitive bid process, we’re honoured that ASC has selected IFS as its ERP system of choice, as it embarks on this ambitious and exciting initiative.
“ASC plays a vital role in Australia’s naval defence and we feel privileged to be supporting them in the delivery of its new digital backbone. Our defence expertise will be central to arming ASC with a solution that will offer them agility in their operations and the flexibility to meet changing market demands.”
Additional suppliers Novacura and BluePrism will also participate in the programmes.
26 Mar 21. Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group (MADG) has reached an agreement with UK manufacturer Portsmouth Aviation that will accelerate production of negative pressure ventilation assistance devices by sharing knowledge and prototypes it developed in partnership with the exovent consortium of academics and medics who initially identified the potential for the application of the technology in the global battle against Covid-19.
The non-invasive exovent prototype negative pressure ventilation assistance device was developed to provide additional treatment options for patient with respiratory conditions in a critical care environment, including those with COVID-19, with the benefit of offering greater patient comfort as they don’t need to be asleep or have an artificial airway in place.
Having taken the product to the pre-production stage, Marshall will now pass over all of its background knowledge, data, design and engineering drawings, along with a working prototype of the device, to the team at Portsmouth Aviation with a view to them developing their own device and take into high volume production.
MADG Chief Executive Gary Moynehan explains: “We were approached early in the pandemic by the exovent team to support them in the development of a new, non-invasive negative pressure ventilator to provide alternative treatment options for Covid-19 patients.
“Recognising the benefits that exovent could deliver, we offered to provide our engineering expertise to the support the design and rapid prototyping of the first unit which enabled medics to get their hands on a working device in just four weeks.
“Using their feedback from the prototype we were able to mature the product and build four pre-production units that have since gone through much of the stringent testing necessary for application in a medical setting.
“We are now delighted to be able to hand the project over to Portsmouth Aviation and are optimistic that their own engineering and manufacturing expertise they will be able to deliver a cost effective product that will ultimately prove invaluable in the treatment of patients with a broad range of respiratory issues.”
Simon Escott, Managing Director of Portsmouth Aviation said: “We’re extremely grateful to Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group (MADG) for the extensive work they’ve undertaken to produce these four pre-production units. Portsmouth Aviation is delighted to join this exciting, innovative and potentially globally lifesaving solution at a key point in its development and to take it though to manufacture
We welcome the opportunity to be part of something that will soon provide significant support to our valued NHS and help in the fight against COVID-19 and other respiratory conditions. We’re looking forward to becoming an integral partner in this venture and working closely with all involved.”
Oxley Group Ltd
Oxley specialises in the design and manufacture of advanced electronic and electro-optic components and systems for air, land and sea applications within the military sector. Established in 1942, Oxley has manufacturing facilities in the UK and USA and enjoys representation worldwide. The company’s products include night vision and LED lighting, data capture systems and electronic components. Oxley has pioneered the development of night vision compatible lighting. It offers a total package incorporating optical filters, equipment modification, cockpit and external lighting along with fleet wide upgrade services including engineering, installation, support, maintenance and training. The company’s long experience of manufacturing night vision lighting and LED indicators, coupled with advances in LED technology, has enabled it to develop LED solutions to replace incandescent and fluorescent lighting in existing applications as well as becoming the lighting option of choice in new applications such as portable military hospitals, UAV control stations and communication shelters.