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Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger

The mil/aero community is beginning to turn to current bleeding-edge computing technology, and move away from lengthy design cycles that result in fielding technology that is often four to five, or even 10 years, behind the commercial curve. The network-centric battlefield—in which the right information is delivered to the right person at the right time—is starting to take shape, and it requires secure, reliable, and efficient platforms. Innovative netcentric platforms are driving the warfighter’s need for the latest and greatest technologies in the field. One such area and a major force driving this need bleeding-edge technology is unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Achieving the amount of computing power necessary to pilot the UAV and to communicate, process, and deliver real-time, high-definition video and other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) data is no small feat.

UAVs help drive the military tech revolution forward

UAVs help drive the military tech revolution forward


Military forces across the globe are asking for the latest and greatest commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware on the battlefield. It represents a significant change in the way militaries traditionally operate.

I have worked directly with many primes (prime contractors) and the traditional way of doing business has been to make a request for hardware that did x, y, and z, let’s say. Then, the subcontractor would produce a hardware product that performed x, y, and z specifically for that contract vehicle. This general practice is an inefficient way to do business from multiple standpoints, including dealing with supply issues from the date of manufacture until some unknown date in the future, and having to retain staff to support these potential contracts or vehicles for a one-off product that will likely never be used for anything else ever again.

The recent trend in the industry is to leverage COTS electronics housed in an off-the-shelf rugged enclosure with custom, virtualized secure operating system (OS) platforms. It does away with the added expense and long design and prototype cycles of the past.

Other design options exist that are a hybrid of old and new processes, and prove to save both time and money. For example, modern design automation enables engineers to develop and test a product virtually before it is sent to the manufacturing floor. Designers can test and modify a product virtually and go through many product iterations and improvements without incurring the additional time, money, and effort required in spinning many different physical prototypes. This hybrid of new and old greatly reduces overall design time, allowing electronics manufacturers to deliver a well-tested and optimized product the first time. Hardware and software virtualization tools are a powerful addition to the engineer’s arsenal.

From one geek to another, I see a bright and cutting-edge future ahead for our militaries in the new world of hardware and software/applications that is emerging. We will explore this new app-driven world and more in upcoming blogs.

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Posted June 21st, 2010, by

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About J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

J. VanDomelen holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and myriad certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTia in varying facets of computer software, hardware, and network design and implementation. He has worked in the electronics industry for more than 12 years in varied fields, including advanced systems design of highly technical military and aerospace computer systems, semiconductor manufacturing, open source software development, hardware design, and rapid prototyping. J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

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5 comments on this post | ↓ Add Your Own

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by J VanDomelen, J VanDomelen. J VanDomelen said: Do you trust COTS in our most secure military systems or is it smarter to keep building a one-off devices? See my blog http://bit.ly/dlfdvG […]

Commented on June 24, 2010 at 11:13 pm
By Courtney E. Howard

This practice has always surprised me. Does the DoD prefer or demand a physical prototype? Even in this day and age? Is it that they don’t “trust” virtual representations, have no way of viewing them, want something they can pass around? Is indicative of an aging management or process? I’m curious.

Commented on July 19, 2010 at 6:03 pm
By Antenna Advancement? « J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

[…] […]

Commented on November 22, 2010 at 7:56 pm
By Update: Made in China « J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

[…] a woeful world economy, investments were being made at that time in military aircraft–manned and unmanned, and new and old; at the same time, commercial airlines and commercial aircraft manufacturers were […]

Commented on December 22, 2010 at 11:13 am
By New Trend: Disposable Computing? « J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

[…] organizations the world over are investigating, and even already adopting, non-ruggedized, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) computing and communications devices, including Apple’s popular iPad. It’s appealing: sleek, […]

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