Sponsored By Oxley Developments
26 Mar 20. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) and the Air National Guard (ANG) have signed a contract for GA-ASI to supply its Detect and Avoid System (DAAS) for one MQ-9 Block 1 and one MQ-9 Block 5 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).
“Our Detect and Avoid System has been extensively tested and not only meets, but exceeds the capabilities of the air traffic awareness and avoidance systems used on today’s commercial airliners,” said David R. Alexander, president, GA-ASI. “The DAAS is an integral part of the certification effort that will allow RPA from GA-ASI to fly in non-segregated, controlled airspace.”
The DAAS consists of GA-ASI’s Due Regard Radar (DRR) and processor, and a Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS). For the ANG, GA-ASI will upgrade the software in the DRR to add a tactical weather mode, in addition to the air traffic surveillance capability. GA-ASI’s DAA system also enables safe access to uncontrolled airspace and will comply with Due Regard procedure when operating in international airspace.
The DAAS avionics will be integrated into the new Centerline Avionics Bay (CAB). The CAB provides additional volume and mission infrastructure for integrating future capabilities. The CAB’s modular design and additional infrastructure will enable the MQ-9 Block 1 and Block 5 aircraft to be a more open and extensible platform for integration of other emerging capabilities.
26 Mar 20. BAE touts Sceptre fast jet mission management tool for multidomain applications. BAE Systems is pitching its Sceptre mission management tool for fast jets as a core campaign planning tool for multidomain operations.
Speaking to Jane’s on 26 March, Louise Aiken, head of Mission Planning Programmes, and John Loader, Operational Requirements Specialist, said that the Sceptre ‘mission planning and information portal’ that has been developed for the Eurofighter Typhoon and BAE Systems Hawk aircraft in particular, but also for other fast jet types, could be utilised across the domains of air, land, sea, and cyber.
“We are very much expanding [the scope of Sceptre] and looking across the entire battlespace management picture,” Aiken said, with Loader adding, “The intent is to link [BAE Systems’ Air division] with other parts of the business to see if Sceptre could be used as a core capability to go through the entire campaign planning cycle – to sit at its centre.”
Loader declined to say what multidomain opportunities are currently being pursued, stressing that it is too early to say. Aiken noted that the plan is for the company’s Air division to draw on its Maritime and Land divisions, as well as the US-based BAE Systems Inc. to further its multidomain plans for the Sceptre system.
As previously described to Jane’s, Sceptre is a modular Windows-based application capable of being used on a number of hardware devices including tablets, PCs, and touch tables. Sceptre supports the full plan, brief, rehearse, execute, and debrief cycle and is the mission data portal (MDP) interacting with the wider operational mission support (OMS) environment, as well as the platform and weapon system.
In its current fast jet application, when the mission is planned on the Sceptre system the data is loaded to a portable data store (PDS) that is, in turn, used to load the data to the aircraft. (Source: Jane’s)
20 Mar 20. xTechSearch: Army Picks Top 10 Tech Innovators. From throwable cameras to magnetic brakes, from disease prevention to battlefield networks, these small businesses have technologies the Army really wants. Read on to find out why.
Miniaturized electromechanical compasses so you can still find your way when the enemy’s jammed GPS. 360 degree cameras you can throw into a building before you storm it. 60-minute screening for pathogens like COVID-19. Those are just three of the winning ideas in the latest round of the Army’s Expeditionary Technology Search program, the service’s push to get high tech out of small biz.
This week, 20 small businesses made their pitches to a panel of Army judges — and in a suitably 21st century touch, it was all done via the web, since the AUSA Huntsville conference where the pitches were originally to take place was canceled because of the coronavirus. (Click here for all our virtual and surrogate AUSA coverage).
Yesterday, in a brief webcast, xTechSearch program manager Zeke Topolosky read out the 10 semifinal winners, who’ll receive $120,000 each and – even more important for many of the competitors – access to Army expert mentors to help refine their pitch and their product for military use. One final winner will be picked to receive $250,000 this fall, hopefully at AUSA’s grand annual meeting in October if the coronavirus permits.
Learn more about Raytheon’s Joint Strike Missile. Click here.
Topolosky spoke to me at length by phone after the announcement. What follows, in his own words (edited for brevity and clarity), is what excited the Army about each of the 10 winners.
Zeke Topolosky, Program Manager, Army xTechSearch:
It’s 20 semifinalists that presented the last two days. This is a selection of all of the top technologies from all of the different technology areas. All that is evaluated by 28 judges over the past two days, from all different fields, very senior technical experts, acquisition experts, end users, and soldiers. We had to come to a consensus agreement on the ten that would move on to the finals.
Bounce Imaging, they’ve made a tactical throwable camera, but it’s not just throwable. It can be used mounted on a canine, on a person, on a vehicle, and it gives you a complete 360 degree spherical view. They’re working on this in both color and IR [infrared]. And they were working on continuing to miniaturize that technology.
And it stabilizes at all times. Imagine a body-worn camera [on someone] running through a building: You can’t really follow that video. This device kept the video always oriented in one direction that the users requested, and stabilized, at all times. So it really had a lot of immediate use in things like breaching buildings, subterranean investigation, where they could just toss this into a building and get complete 360 degree situational awareness, day and night.
GeneCapture, a very strong company, lots of amazing expertise on their staff. Obviously, they made some references to coronavirus [testing]. What they can do is detect infections and pathogens from a deployable, portable system, and do it rapidly. They have the ability to test for multiple things at once. Most detection systems like this, they’re testing for one pathogen at a time, and it has to be done in a laboratory. They were pitching the ability to do this downrange, and to test for multiple things.
When you have a soldier downrange, not in a hospital or in a medical station, who may have some illness, you have to sort of guess on treating them, or not treat them at all till they get proper testing, which could lead to administering the wrong medication, or no medication. This would allow a field medic to do those tests, real time, and know exactly what they’re dealing with.
Inductive Ventures. This is a magnetic braking technology. Now, this company pitched numerous use cases for magnetic brakes versus the carbon brakes that we normally use, but for the xTech competition, they focused on braking for helicopters.
Right now, when you land a helicopter, you have no way of moving that machine without either turning on the engine or towing by other vehicles. With this technology, you would enable helicopter operators, if they were to land in an emergency, or have to move their vehicle without it fully functioning, they can do that with this magnetic braking.
We did have several helicopter pilots in our judging panel who were saying, “This is revolutionary for us.” We even had an example of somebody having to do an emergency landing on a soccer field with a Huey overseas, due to mechanical failure. And then once they landed, they literally had no way of moving that helicopter. They left it. This would have enabled them to be able to move it around and work on it.
IoT/AI, these guys kind of blew the socks off the judges. Essentially, they had a device that was hardened against cyber attacks and other interference. They’re also able to do all this on an edge device, in this black box that you can take to the field, as opposed to having to send data back to a server. It’s just one less vulnerability. Everything can be done there on the edge.
It’s kind of the golden nugget for deploying AI for the Army, where it’s going to be done in forward deployed areas, without infrastructure, without these computing resources that are power draining, in vulnerable areas where the enemy is trying to mess them up. Deploying artificial intelligence in the Army is going to be way more difficult than all the things we see being developed on the commercial side, from self-driving cars to Alexa.
Lots of people are developing algorithms, but we don’t necessarily have the hardware to make that a reality for the Army, that’s really sort of missing right now. IOT/AI, what they’re providing is some of the hardware solutions to make that a reality.
LynQ Technologies, this was a very strong company, it had strong VC backing, which de-risks a lot for the Army, and they’ve also been recognized by Techstars, out of the Air Force.
It’s a very mature product. There’s a real near-term win with this, because it’s a ready-to-go product that we could be using now to locate injured soldiers in the field, downed pilots, lost cargo, et cetera. It was a very strong company, well-backed on the commercial side. They clearly had a capability that they could deliver the Army now that we don’t have.
KeriCure – deployable wound care products. Like LynQ, this was a very mature product: You can go on Amazon and buy their product now. It was just a wonder why the Army doesn’t have this in their kit.
Field medics right now could be using this. Yes, there’s some testing that would have to be done with to validate some of the claims, and there is possibly some more development work that has to go into packaging it better for field use. But it’s a mature product that can give immediate, lifesaving capability to soldiers now.
The Army deals with wounds that can’t be dressed properly immediately, that lead to infections. And what this product does, it’s a dressing you spray on wounds to prevent those infections from occurring. We had some combat medics in the group, and they all agreed they could use this in their kit right now.
MEI Micro, it’s a MEMS [Micro Electronic-Mechanical System] IMU [Inertial Measurement Unit]. It’s an order of magnitude improvement on position, navigation, and timing capabilities that we have now. When you’re GPS-denied, the solutions that are out there — including quantum clocks and gyro [gyroscopic] devices — are very expensive, and they’re under development. What they presented showed a leap-ahead capability for a far lower cost.
If it can be realized, it’s a game changer here for assured position, navigation, and timing, which helps you with things like communications, navigation, et cetera, especially in a congested or a GPS-denied environment.
Multiscale Systems, this is a company that competed in a previous round of xTech, when they were a little less mature. They had a meta-material, an engineered material, so you could customize the properties of the material and how you build it. They’re able to make materials for air traffic, cargo, and even lining truck beds, much lighter, much stronger than what we currently have, and for cheaper. With the Army where, especially in logistics and transportation, they can have an immediate impact and save a lot of money and a lot of weight, especially when airdropping cargo and containers and things like that.
Beyond that, there just seems to be a lot of other applications for these materials. Granted, they will need some work in lowering the cost to produce them, but the product itself could be a huge cost savings for the Army and lighten the load a lot in aircraft and ground logistics platforms.
Novaa, that’s the next generation SATCOM [satellite communications]. What these guys are proposing is a brand-new way of handling the spectrum.
In the Army, we are constantly having to tap into multiple frequencies, so you’ll see vehicles, aircraft driving around with lots of antennas on them. If you’re on SATCOM, if you have a radar system, if you’re doing high frequency, ultra-high frequency, everything requires a different physical antenna — and all of these antennas take up space. Not only that, they stick out, they get snagged, get caught, these antennas break. And worst of all, they are targets. They’re highly visible. They stick out like a sore thumb, and they let the enemy know, hey, this is a vehicle of importance, it’s got communication gear or sensor gear.
What they are offering is an antenna designed to replace all those antennas with one single aperture, with a very low profile. The space savings, the drag savings, and the concealed nature of it, on top of having the complexity and the cost of all these antennas replaced with just one, was very appealing.
It was the antenna design, but it was the architecture that goes with it as well, to be able to handle from one aperture, all these other systems that have to tap into that antenna. Really a potentially revolutionary way of approaching the spectrum.
Vita Inclinata is the last one. This is another repeat company, they had previously been in the competition and had come back.
They make a stabilization system for helicopters that are hoisting up either cargo or gurneys with injured people on them. This is a huge problem in the rescue operations, where a little gust or just the wrong movement can cause a load to spin out of control. There’s instances where the Army is dropping expensive cargo because it would bring down the helicopter when they get into a spin, even losing injured people that are being medevac’ed because of these spins. Even rigging these hoist systems is extremely dangerous and requires somebody on the ground.
Vita Inclinata, they’ve developed fully autonomous solution that completely stabilizes any loads, from just a wounded person to tens of thousands of pounds of cargo. They have a ready-to-go, pretty well tested device that could be added on to any helicopter.
Since last year, their company has progressed a lot, with lots of interest across the services and the commercial side, landed some good investments and contracts. And this time around, they really understood where the niche was, where the Army needed this the most. Last year, they were trying to talk to the Future Vertical Lift folks about, “your new aircraft could use this.” But it’s really all the helicopters, especially the existing ones that we’re using now. The Army does not have this capability and it’s desperately needed. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
20 Mar 20. BAE Systems has successfully demonstrated new, powerful small-form-factor semiconductor technology designed to sense radio frequency and communication signals in congested and contested battle environments in conjunction with an unmanned aerial system.
In a recent military exercise attended by representatives from multiple research labs and military service branches, BAE Systems successfully demonstrated new, powerful small-form-factor semiconductor technology. The Hedgehog technology, which was used in this exercise to sense radio frequency (RF) and communication signals in congested and contested battle environments in conjunction with an unmanned aerial system, is a collection of general-purpose, reconfigurable MATRICs chips in a software-defined radio (SDR) system.
The Hedgehog demonstration was in support of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Distributed RF Analysis and Geolocation on Networked System (DRAGONS) research. The DRAGONS program is designed to deliver a drone-integrated, small form factor signal identification and geolocation capability. This research and the underlying research on MATRICs and Hedgehog was developed with funding from DARPA.
The demonstration highlighted the ability for forward operators to deploy technology to secure tactical signals intelligence and geolocation data in near real-time with low size, weight and power requirements. The technology provides agility, a broad frequency range, and high instantaneous bandwidth – all key capabilities that are not currently available from other SDRs.
Chris Rappa, Product Line Director for Radio Frequency, Electronic Warfare, and Advanced Electronics at BAE Systems FAST Labs, said: “Our successful demonstration underscores the capabilities of our breakthrough Hedgehog technology moving one step closer toward operational readiness.
“The importance of this potentially game-changing technology is that it can be deployed for many different purposes across a multitude of platforms and mission types, providing deployed units with a tactical advantage only previously possible with large scale platform support.” (Source: Defence Online)
25 Mar 20. TactoTek® and Lightworks GmbH Partner for Lighting Innovation for Vehicles. Lightworks adds in-mold lighting solutions to illumination design palette. Today, TactoTek, the Finland-based company that develops, industrializes and licenses in-mold structural electronics (IMSE™), and Lightworks GmbH, a leading automotive lighting design and engineering consultancy, announced their collaboration on in-mold lighting solutions. Together the companies will accelerate the development and use of in-mold lighting for styling and function for vehicle interiors and exteriors.
“Lighting is a prominent feature in over 95% of our customers’ IMSE solutions. From styling to status indicators and dynamic operator alerts, we’re seeing incredible design creativity and high value solutions for users. Lightworks combines a deep understanding of their customers’ preferred styling, aesthetics and design language, with the illumination design and optical engineering expertise to create lighting solutions that complement that vision,” noted Dave Rice, SVP Marketing and Business Development at TactoTek.
In TactoTek IMSE solutions LEDs and the circuitry that drives them are molded inside of the plastic that is the structure of the part. The result is very thin, seamless components that can conform to complex shapes and are efficiently mass produced.
Michael Höfgen, founder and CEO of Lightworks stated, “Light as part of automotive user experience is more important for styling and function than ever before. The huge benefit of IMSE is the technology’s fusion of dynamic lighting with highly decorative surfaces and HMI functionality in 3D structures as thin as 2mm. We can enhance many of our illumination package designs with IMSE elements.”
TactoTek is building a partner program with industrial design and engineering companies serving automotive, smart home/IoT, appliance and other markets so design experts can enhance their solutions with IMSE technology.
TactoTek is a leading provider of solutions for Injection Molded Structural Electronics (IMSE) that integrate printed circuitry and electronic components into 3D injection molded plastics. Leading use cases include in-vehicle applications, home/industrial appliances, and wearable technology. TactoTek develops and industrializes IMSE technology, develops mass production ready IMSE prototypes, and licenses IMSE technology for 3rd party mass production. TactoTek is funded by Conor Venture Partners, Voima Ventures, Nordic Option Oy, Valeado AB, Faurecia Ventures, 3M Ventures, Cornes Technologies Limited, Repsol Energy Ventures, Plastic Omnium, Nanogate, Ascend Capital Partners, Leaguer VC, Nordea, Finnvera, ELY Center, Business Finland, various European Union’s funding programs and private angels. For more information, please visit www.tactotek.com.
About Lightworks GmbH
Lightworks is a mid-sized technology company located in Holzkirchen by Munich. Known as a driver for innovation, Lightworks supports the leading automotive suppliers, Tier 1-suppliers and also customers from various non-automotive applications with its know-how in optical and lighting systems development. Not only in the field of optical development but also in operative project management in complex industrialization projects, Lightworks is able to convincingly demonstrate its competencies. Furthermore, Lightworks is a member of ISELED-Alliance. Within this scope, the Company promotes the innovative next generation smart-connected and cost-effective LED solutions. Further information on www.lightworks-gmbh.de.
23 Mar 20. Leonardo DRS, Inc. announced today that it has been awarded a contract by Elbit Systems of America to provide advanced rugged tablets as the Fire Control Computer Two (FCC II) for U.S. Army Mortar Fire Control Systems. The $20.6m contract was awarded in October 2019. The FCC II hosts the software which enables the warfighter to interact with the overall system designed to reduce the time it takes soldiers to prepare and fire rounds. The FCC II is a rugged computer tablet from the Leonardo DRS Land Electronics business. When loaded with Mortar Fire Control software, it is capable of computing firing solutions for 120mm mounted and dismounted mortar systems, processing digital call for fires messages from battlefield’s Fire Support Network, and providing technical manual reference to the user. The FCC II is being fielded to Infantry Brigade Combat Teams, Armored Brigade Combat Teams and Stryker Brigade Combat teams.
“These tablets are providing advanced ruggedized multi-touchscreen technology so warfighters can have the most advanced and reliable digitized equipment for more effective protective fire missions,” said Bill Guyan, senior vice president and general manager of the Leonardo DRS Land Electronics business. “We are proud to be working with Elbit Systems of America on this program and are dedicated to the support and fielding of these proven digital fire control computers for our warfighters.”
Manufacturing of these FCC II rugged tablets will be conducted by the Leonardo DRS Land Electronics business in Melbourne, Florida.
24 Mar 20. Next-Gen Tech Fund challenge to counter improvised threats. The Next-Generation Technologies Fund (NGTF) has sought proposals from industry and academia on Phase 2 of the Counter Improvised Threat Grand Challenge (CIT-GC). The CIT-GC of the NGTF is entering a Phase 2 challenge aimed at realising leap-ahead technologies for countering improvised threats.
The improvised threats facing Australia and its coalition partners range in complexity and exist in all environments – land, sea and air. The threat is dynamic and evolving rapidly. The aim of the CIT-GC is to demonstrate an integrated and agile system capable of fast evolution that can detect and neutralise threats on a complex joint battlespace with low risk to Defence personnel and civilians.
The focus of Phase 2 is on a counter unmanned aerial system (CUAS) capability. The NGTF, managed by DST, is a government initiative introduced with the Defence Industry Policy Statement in 2016.
Together with the Defence Innovation Hub and the Centre for Defence Industry Capability, these three form the integrated Defence innovation system. With an investment of $730m over the decade to June 2026, the NGTF is a forward-looking program focusing on research and development in emerging and future technologies for the “future Defence Force after next”.
The NGTF is focused on the following nine priority areas as determined by the Defence White Paper 2016:
- Integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance;
- Space capabilities;
- Enhanced human performance;
- Medical countermeasure products;
- Multi-disciplinary material sciences;
- Quantum technologies;
- Trusted autonomous systems;
- Cyber; and
- Advanced sensors, hypersonics and directed energy capabilities.
Potential suppliers wishing to respond to this procurement will be required to fully comply with and meet the following conditions for participation:
- Clause 5 – Statement of Tax Record;
- Clause 8 – Defence Security requirements;
- Applicants must hold an Australian Business Number (ABN) or a New Zealand Business Number (NZBN) to participate in this procurement.
Participation in Phase 1 is not a prerequisite for participation in Phase 2. The contract delivery model is to be proposed as part of the bid. The model could be:
- Single prime developer;
- Single prime developer utilising subcontractors; and
- Multiple partnerships of developers.
Submissions are to be made via AusTender, for further information, email WCSD-PLCIT@dst.defence.gov.au. (Source: Defence Connect)
16 Mar 20. Australia’s Institute for Drone Technology develops low altitude airspace management system. Australia’s Institute for Drone Technology is working on the development of a Low Altitude Airspace Management System (LAAMS) in partnership with counter drone specialists Department 13 (D13). D13 provides situational awareness capabilities airspace management platforms by detecting, identifying, attributing, and locating drones within the airspace to ensure safe flights. The institute provides drone consultancy, training and pilot license accreditation.
According to an article published by Commercial UAV News LAAMS is the latest product in the Institute’s portfolio which includes products such as as Dronesafe, DroneInduct and Drone Test & Tag.
Paul New, Executive Director of The Institute for Drone Technology, told Commercial UAV News: “With LAAMS, you can record and track everything within one system,” explained New. “You’re pre-qualified, you’re trained, you’re managing and monitoring your drone operations, and with LAAMS you can detect, track, and identify what is in your local airspace and determine whether it is a threat. By taking off some of the capability that counter-drone systems have, mainly interdiction, we found that sweet spot regarding airspace management. Airspace management is not just about governance, compliance, and protection, and it’s potentially about revenue opportunities – it’s about knowing more about your space.”
New added: “We have already had an interest, both from the US, Asia and Australia, to trial that ecosystem on assets to give the client the turnkey drone management solution.”
New sees B2B as a game-changer for companies who need to move critical items from Point A to B to C within their campuses or even between different offices without having to plan around traffic. This has already been imagined with critical blood and organs by companies within the US like with UPS and Aquiline Drones. By integrating drone detection and tracking capabilities into their system, The Institute for Drone Technology and D13 are looking at how these technologies can be leveraged to keep everyday drone operations safe by giving them situational awareness—eyes in the sky. The success of this system trials could eventually influence how these types of solutions evolve globally. (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
16 Mar 20. Boeing joins UK research project focused on safe integration of drones. Boeing has joined the GBP65m Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC), due to become operational this summer at Cranfield University. The centre is spearheading the UK’s research into digital aviation technology including the integration of drones into civilian airspace. Research areas include secure data communication infrastructures and self-sensing technologies.
Boeing and Cranfield have been working together for over 25 years on a range of research and technology projects. In 2008, Cranfield became host to Boeing’s Centre of Excellence in Integrated Vehicle Health Management – now called the IVHM Centre – which joined DARTeC as a founding member in 2017.
Boeing joins Aveillant, Blue Bear Systems Research, BOXARR, the Connected Places Catapult, Cranfield University, Inmarsat, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the IVHM Centre, Saab, the Satellite Applications Catapult and Thales in the consortium which has also received co-investment support from Research England. (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
23 Mar 20. Altitude Angel and INVOLI Form a Strategic Partnership. Altitude Angel, a world-wide UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) technology provider and INVOLI, a low-altitude air traffic data provider, are to form a strategic partnership which will give ANSPs, operators, pilots and drone-centric risk management applications, an unrivalled picture of airspace. The partnership will help define the requirements for UTM both now and in the future.
Having worked successfully together on the Gulf of Finland trials throughout the summer of 2019 and most recently at the African Drone Forum and Lake Kivu Challenge 2020, where Altitude Angel were the lead and umbrella UTM provider and INVOLI delivered its unique air traffic awareness system and drone tracking solution, it was clear to both organisations the benefits of moving from an informal working relationship to forming a strategic partnership.
By integrating INVOLI’s complete and reliable low-altitude air traffic awareness data stream with Altitude Angel’s airspace and ground hazard data, via its GuardianUTM platform, a true situational awareness picture of the drone ecosystem will be created. This in turn will enable organisations who are adopting UTM technologies to have a ‘best-in-class’ enriched data source.
In addition, Altitude Angel will also have the ability to propagate the data from INVOLI to other applications and partner platforms, including, DroneSafetyMap.com, Guardian App, and bespoke national drone apps from ANSPs.
Manu Lubrano, INVOLI CEO and co-founder said: “As two of the world’s most progressive organisations whose shared aim is to open our skies safely and securely to regular, automated drone flights, I’m excited by our partnership with Altitude Angel. The next few years are critical for the drone industry, and we’re pleased to have Altitude Angel at our side to together enable safe drone-use worldwide.”
Richard Parker, Altitude Angel, CEO and founder added:
“Strategic partnerships, like the one we have formed with INVOLI, are a clear demonstration of how two businesses with a mutual vision for future drone flights can collaborate and in doing so, move an entire industry forward. The addition of INVOLI’s data to our already comprehensive platform will bring a new clarity to the airspace picture and in doing so, bring BVLOS flight a step closer.”
Altitude Angel’s airspace and ground hazard data is already integrated into leading drone-centric risk management applications, including Airmate, Skywatch and Dronecloud. The data supplied gives operators a unified view of the airspace to ensure they can fly safely – whatever application they are using. (Source: UAS VISION)
21 Mar 20. DARPA moves forward with photonic signalling project. The Pentagon’s DARPA has made a significant step forward in its Photonics in the Package for Extreme Scalability program, selecting teams of researchers to develop novel optical interconnect technologies. These are expected to vastly improve digital connectivity in microelectronics.
Advances in digital microelectronics have enabled indispensable capabilities for the US Department of Defense (DoD) in the fields of information processing, sensors and communications. Increasingly, system performance in these domains is constrained not by the limits of computation at individual chips, but rather by the electrical data movement between them. The energy efficiency and data bandwidth of electrical interconnects between integrated circuits (ICs) has failed to keep pace with improvements in transistor technology.
To address this challenge, DARPA developed the Photonics in the Package for Extreme Scalability (PIPES) program, which aims to expand the use of optical signaling for data transfer and place high-bandwidth photonics within the package of application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). By targeting challenging goals for signaling efficiency and bandwidth density, PIPES seeks to enable disruptive system scalability and new system architectures capable of supporting emerging data-intensive applications for the commercial and defense industries.
Recently, DARPA selected teams to take on three research areas under PIPES. These efforts span the development and integration of the optical signaling technology for next-generation digital microelectronics, particularly targeting defence-relevant applications; the creation of component technologies and advanced link concepts to enable even greater technical performance; and the exploration of novel approaches to address the challenges and opportunities PIPES technologies present to system architects.
PIPES’ first research area is focused on the development of high-performance optical input/output (I/O) technologies packaged with advanced ICs, including FPGAs and ASICs. Two research teams led by Xilinx Corp and Intel will take on this research area. The resulting technologies will enable ICs with unprecedented bandwidth density, energy efficiency and reach. In addition, researchers from Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and BAE Systems will help inform the development of these optical I/O technologies to ensure they address the requirements of current and future defence needs. The researchers will also investigate which defence applications could benefit most from this technology.
“The benefits of optical signaling in digital systems have been recognized for a long time,” said Dr Gordon Keeler, the DARPA program manager leading PIPES. “PIPES researchers are working to solve practical technical problems to meet the ambitious goals of the program, which include enabling I/O data rates up to 100 Terabits per second (Tbps) at signaling energies below one picoJoule per bit (pJ/bit). At the same time, the teams are studying how to tailor their technologies to address national security applications where operating conditions may be very demanding.”
The research teams selected to explore component technologies and advanced link concepts for novel approaches to in-package optical I/O include:
- Sandia National Laboratories
- University of California, San Diego
- University of California, Santa Barbara
- Columbia University
- The University of Pennsylvania
The final research area of the program is exploring system-level issues and opportunities created by high-performance optical I/O technologies for system architects. The University of California, Berkeley is taking on this research.
PIPES is part of the second phase of DARPA’s Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI) – a five-year, upwards of $1.5bn investment in the future of domestic, US government and defence electronics systems. Under ERI Phase II, DARPA is working to ensure the development of novel manufacturing capabilities and to support a strategy for the enduring availability of differentiated, high-performance electronics for the DoD and its commercial partners. (Source: Defence Connect)
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.