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Home >It's all about data

It's all about data

11 October 2018

The global demand for connected devices is growing, with the Internet of Things (IoT) and home automation setting the pace. Developments in communications protocols and sensor technology have made it easier to integrate network connectivity and remote-control systems into an increasingly wide variety of devices, and this can be seen across the military and defence sector. Andy Pye reports

Connected military vehicles are generating gigabytes of data from sensor-packed functions including on-board systems that monitor a vehicle’s oil, temperature and fuel consumption, as well as more general performance data, such as speed, distance travelled and location.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the US Department of Defense (DoD) now use cloud services

Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the US Department of Defense (DoD) now use cloud services, software and technology products involved in the collection and processing of huge reams of data. However, the industry is still at the early stages of making full use of the wealth of information available to it.

Data-driven design & testing

This data can be used to track vehicles and personnel, and importantly, make intelligent decisions and inform the design of future vehicles.

By using data generated from real-life vehicles, design engineers can make more informed decisions on how to best manufacture a military vehicle. Instead, real-life vehicle data is used to design, manufacture and test military-grade systems against the specified load and frequency data of the real-life application. If the load data is unknown, theoretical calculations and simulation software can also outline loads.

For designing steering systems, according to Pailton Engineering, It is not just the static values of the load or frequency data that is of most concern, considering that most military vehicles are designed to go above and beyond the actual loads and frequencies they will face. Rather, it’s the dynamic nature of the vehicle’s activity - the varying loads, the changeable frequencies and irregular abusive loads that occur during the vehicle life.

Data-driven design enables data-driven testing. One of the most important parameters to test for a military vehicle and its parts is the maximum load. With this information designers can observe how much force a part can endure, in both tensile and compression, before a failure occurs. Using different rigs to test a range of force applications, forces up to ±400kN can be applied both statically or dynamically.

Data-driven design enables data-driven testing

Moreover, with enough data, multiple loads at their respective frequencies and cycles are compiled as part of a dynamic block testing program. This program effectively mirrors the real-life data that is gathered from the vehicle to accurately assess the true fatigue life of the part.

With a variety of loads and frequencies in place, engineers can measure the number of cycles that the parts can endure over time, performing a million load cycles in a week, enough to replicate infinite life for a part on a vehicle, meaning lifecycle management decisions can be made in advance.

E-Aircraft Systems Test House

Although Airbus is well-known for its comprehensive range of passenger airliners, is also major player providing tanker, combat, transport and mission aircraft, including civil and military helicopters, as well as being one of the world’s leading space companies.

Now, Airbus has celebrated the opening of its E-Aircraft Systems Test House at its Taufkirchen/Ottobrunn site near Munich in Germany.

The facility will provide the infrastructure to install hybrid-electric propulsion systems with a total power of up to 2 x 20MW for Airbus’ E-Aircraft Systems Programme.

The main objective will be the integration of different sub-systems. It will include test benches for the integration with batteries and gas turbines, energy distribution systems and electric drives.

The project is on schedule for completion in March 2019 and first tests are scheduled for the second half of 2019.

Cybersecurity backdrop

Alongside an increased reliance on data for design and test purposes, comes the increased and topical threat of cybersecurity. In June 2018, software company Symantec discovered Chinese hackers had compromised computer systems operated by satellite operators, defence contractors and telecommunications companies.
In October 2016, the UK government launched the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) aimed at enhancing the country’s ability to deal with cyber threats.
The NCSC complements existing government bodies, including the Centre for Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), which was launched in 2007 to tackle threats to infrastructure, including cybersecurity.

As a UK Government authority, the CPNI provides security advice to businesses and organisations working in thirteen national infrastructure sectors: chemicals, civil nuclear communications, defence, emergency services, energy, finance, food, government, health, space, transport and water.

Boulting Technology recommends an end-to-end cybersecurity approach, particularly for critical infrastructure, where an undetected or unpatched flaw could have a devastating impact.

A survey of the current equipment and software used in any environment must be the first point of call, whether they are working in the water, transport or food processing sectors. Both operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) systems must be analysed, to ensure the entire plant is as secure as can be. These findings can be broken down into a traffic light system and used to prioritise the steps that must be taken.

These steps can range from finding the most up-to-date security patches for legacy systems that might need manually updating, to reanalysing network permissions. Depending on the findings, these changes might need to be made immediately or could be integrated into the long-term maintenance plan for the plant.

Plant managers are often concerned about the security implications of integrating systems together

Plant managers are often concerned about the security implications of integrating systems together. While this is one way in which flaws or holes in the cyber protection systems can be created, an experienced and reliable integrator will be able to advise of any potential implications before they arise. Boulting has formed an alliance with NETbuilder, to ensure its clients receive an end-to-end digitalisation service, assuring the integration and the security of the entire system once it has been completed.

Upgrading vehicle programme

At DVD 2018 (Defence Vehicle Dynamics, Millbrook 19 and 20 September), Supacat announced a modernisation programme for its highly successful All Terrain Mobility Platform (ATMP). The original vehicle has been in service with the UK MOD, foreign militaries and other non-defence sectors since the early 80s. Now it is necessary to manage obsolescence issues and support the hybrid development and automation.

The modernisation will involve updating the engine and drive train whilst also managing changing legislative requirements and Human-Machine Interface. It will also integrate a hybrid drive train.

The hybrid ATMP offers benefits which include a reduced logistic burden, a silent running mode and a mobile battery charging platform.

Project Silent Approach

The emphasis on silent aircraft is, if anything, even more important in the civilian sector. Because aircraft engine noise contributes to environmental noise around airports and populated cities, the aerospace industry has been working on new aircraft designs.

The University of Twente in the Netherlands (UT), together with Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer, the Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR) and the German-Dutch Wind Tunnels Foundation, has set up a consortium that works on the design and development of even quieter aircraft.

With the development of turbofan engines, new aircraft have already become much quieter in recent years. The greatest gains can now be made in reducing fuselage noise caused by the airflow along the wings, the attached flaps and the landing gear. Shielding and absorbing aircraft engine noise at the source is another effective approach.

During development, it is important to be able to properly test the noise output of new quiet concept aircraft during the design process. Due to the tremendous economic interest, it is essential that the wind tunnel tests of scale models for these aircraft correspond as closely as possible to the performance of actual aircraft under real flight conditions. The partners in the newly established consortium will pool their expertise and resources in order to bring the results of the tests as closely in line with real-life scenarios as possible.

it is important to be able to properly test the noise output of new quiet concept aircraft during the design process

The aero-acoustic wind tunnel at the Engineering Fluid Dynamics (EFD) department at UT has recently been renovated: it is now equipped with the most advanced flow measurement techniques and noise source localisation methods.

Hexcel has been at the forefront of acoustic technology development with its Acousti-Cap broadband sound-reducing honeycomb, which enables engine designers to reduce the noise from take-offs and landings yet without adding significant weight to the aircraft.

The 2DOF (Two Degrees of Freedom) honeycomb core acoustic liner was introduced in 2008 and was subsequently adopted and installed on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner inlet, the Boeing 747-8 inlet and cowel, and more recently on the Boeing 737 MAX inlet. This success enabled continued technology development and evolution in MDOF (Multi-Degrees of Freedom) where the acoustic septum is inserted in the honeycomb cell at different heights, as well as having two septums in honeycomb chambers. This improves acoustic attenuation over a broader frequency range.

Recently tested in a joint NASA-Boeing flight test on a B737 MAX test platform, the ability to attenuate a broader noise frequency range and increase acoustic absorption has allowed a redesign of the overall inlet that reduces drag and improves noise attenuation.

Vehicle reconnaissance system

The FLIR Black Hornet Vehicle Reconnaissance System (VRS) is carried in an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed for global military, government agency, and first responder vehicle-mounted operations.

The Black Hornet VRS system includes a launch unit that holds multiple Black Hornet 3 UAVs and mounts to the exterior of any military vehicle, including armoured personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, and light utility vehicles. Operators inside a vehicle can launch and fly the Black Hornet 3 on its mission.

The complete system is easily integrated with modern battlefield management systems and is vehicle platform independent.

Chemical detector

FLIR Systems has also received an award from the United States Department of Defense (DOD) Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEOCBRND) in support of the Multi-Phase Chemical Agent Detector (MPCAD) program.

The Griffin G510 is a portable gas chromatograph mass spectrometer (GC-MS) system currently used by domestic and international response teams to perform real-time chemical threat confirmation in the field. This development will provide the ability to identify chemicals at low levels in aerosol, gas, liquid, and solid phases of matter.

It will provide fighters with field confirmation capabilities and better enable them to combat and interdict chemical weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Nanotechnology sensors

At AUSA 2018 (Washington DC Convention Center, 8 to 10 October), MS Tech showcased its nanotechnology sensors for rapid detection and identification of explosives, narcotics and TICs.

The EXPLOSCAN and DUOSCAN Explosives and Narcotics Detectors are easy to operate, ruggedised, and able to withstand difficult weather conditions such as extreme temperatures, winds, rain, dust, humidity, etc. Due to the use of High-Frequency Quartz Crystal Microbalance (HF-QCM) nanotechnology sensors, the detectors have no radioactive source, making them safe for the user.

Patented sampling swabs reduce the cost of consumables, while automatic self-diagnostic software decreases maintenance downtime. A single system for both narcotics and explosives detection lowers the level of capital investment required. The systems are easy to use, are self-calibrating, and include an automatic cleaning cycle that enables a short downtime following an alarm.

REACH - a reprieve for hexavalent chromium?

REACH (for "Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals"), is a European Union regulation that came into effect in 2007. It was introduced to protect human health and the environment from the risks associated with exposure to chemical substances.

REACH has recently banned the use of hexavalent chromium in the finishing processes of connector housings. However, an authorisation for several years has also been granted to a group of European manufacturers determined to use REACH as a lever for innovation.

This is seen as a victory for the French connectivity industry, which combines its efforts with its European partners to develop new alternatives, especially for harsh environments.

This strong regulatory ban, restricted to the sole manufacturers of the European zone, and that doesn´t concern manufacturers or customers in the US or Asia, could have well encouraged European companies to relocate the manufacturing of their connectors. But instead, the French and European players agreed on a concerted basis, within the CMG consortium (Connectors Manufacturers Group), to defend the jobs of an industry meeting the needs of a demanding market, while ensuring compliance with international standards.

Gathered under the French professional electronic craft union ACSIEL Alliance Electronique, the CMG managed, after a long administrative process of 4 years, to obtain the authorisation to continue using this substance, by demonstrating its socio-economic interest and their control of the environmental risks on the European production sites.

CMG manufacturers have also embarked on an innovative cooperation program, to seek alternative solutions answering the needs of the demanding industrial applications of aeronautics, defence and space - within a horizon of 4 to 12 years, depending on the use cases.

Hence, the European Commission has extended the authorization of the use of hexavalent chromium for 4 to 12 years, limited to CMG members only, according to the qualification and deployment statuses of the alternatives.

* CMG's active companies in this process are Amphenol, ITT Cannon, Radiall, Souriau and TE Connectivity

Key Points

Using data generated from real-life vehicles, design engineers make more informed decisions on how to best manufacture a military vehicle

All Terrain Mobility Platform modernisation involves updating engine and drive train and managing changing legislative requirements

FLIR Black Hornet Vehicle Reconnaissance System (VRS) is carried in an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed for global military operations