No Windshields for War Trucks

Marines in armored military trucks driving down a road

DARPA’s Ground X Vehicle Technologies program is focused on ways to enhance the tanks, trucks, jeeps, and more used to fight the enemy and transport troops. These initiatives encompass technologies ranging from additional armor and weaponry to reducing vehicle weight and improving navigation.

As it relates to the later, two well-known military suppliers have stepped forward with systems that help eliminate something that has historically been both necessary and detrimental to troop safety – windows.

First, last January Raytheon looked to bring windows inside the vehicle in the form of an LCD screen fed by an external camera. According to the company, this camera or cameras would include ultra-HD and 360-degree data capture in reconstructing the external environment for soldiers to view inside the vehicle. Vision-less navigation would be made possible by a LIDAR system similar to those being applied to driverless vehicles.

In addition to addressing a prime weak spot targeted by enemies, this new “window-less” technology would allow crew members to focus on specific vantage points. For example, one team member could be assigned to scan ahead while others focus on potential signs of an ambush or enemy avenues of approach.

Currently, Raytheon is still looking to develop the core functionality and make it simple to use. Meanwhile, Honeywell has unveiled a competitive system that is currently being tested at an off-road track in Arizona.

Fed by roof-mounted cameras and onboard computer imaging equipment, Honeywell’s system utilizes a combination of panoramic internal displays and personal, mixed-reality visors that can also display vital situational intelligence. Although a significant departure from looking out the windshield, Honeywell has reported drivers reaching speeds of up to 40 mph during testing as proof that windowless battlefield vehicles could be available sooner than expected.

Next steps will include integrating infrared and thermal scanning capabilities, as well as durability testing. The real challenge will be incorporating a backup plan once these cameras come under fire.

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