UAVs, signal processing, and traceability at DSEI 2015

September 18, 2015 OpenSystems Media

Security was tighter than ever entering DSEI 2015 in London, which was the perfect way to pay homage to the embedded innovation that underpinned much of the fresh military technology on display within. The vast swaths of visitors (purportedly close to 30,000) each individually had to traverse airport-style metal detectors and x-rays on entry. Whilst highly frustrating for those ambling through queues reminiscent of a national theme park, it provided an excellent example of efficient embedded technology at work, working for each of our security.

Inside, beyond the ubiquitous gargantuan manned vehicles of war, a new generation of UAVs hang eerily suspended – those geared for observation, communication, and devastation. I spent time scrutinizing the transformation of the Watchkeeper X UAS that promises to offer all three by modularization, a process far more complex in the front-end military market than it is traditionally in our own when we employ the term with relative freedom. The rapid improvements in UAV technology cannot be relied upon to remain in friendly hands, thus the advancement of counter-UAV (C-UAV) technology has been driven equally hard. The defense requirement has evolved from neutralizing relatively large UAVs in comparatively sparse terrain to encapsulating today’s micro UAVs in high-clutter “urban canyons”. Particularly fascinating were the range of “target practice” UAVs presented by Meggitt designed to practically evaluate current defense systems and train those using them. Whether it’s for attack, defense, or surveillance, embedded innovation lay at its heart.

Away from deliverables, with traceability in the supply chain as critical as ever due to evolving conflict minerals legislation and future country of origin potential complications, those responsible are favoring proactivity to address a growing interest. Whilst those traceability demands have always existed in the military market, similar demands are increasingly placed on component distributors in other market sectors. Farnell element14 were introducing their audited end-to-end solution that provides full traceability in response to what is increasingly a market demand.

Back to more familiar board-level territory – though territory that’s dishearteningly always devoid of real-world application details due to naturally restrictive NDAs – it appears to be VPX’s year to make the real thrust into the military arena it’s long promised to. With scalable x86 performance options from the low power quad core Atom to a colossal Intel Xeon E3-1500 offering, Concurrent Technologies are heavily invested in the blade technology. Taking a different approach, Parsec in corroboration with UK-based Sundance demonstrated a 3U VPX card combining a Stratix V FPGA and TMS320C667X DSP encompassing specialized high-performance processing requirements within a flexible package.

Whatever happens in the next 24 months, we can be confident that the majority of the evolution of our military equipment we’ll see in 2017 is made possible by improvements within our own embedded computing industry. Designed for our national security, it’s the security of the increasingly connected devices themselves, which will be most under scrutiny as the defense industry leverages from our advancements. The threat is dynamic and the arms race is increasingly electronic, thus relies on end-to-end infallible protection from rogue individuals or states. None of us wants to see a demonstration of today’s military might on any substantial scale, but, as with the nuclear threat, it should be the scale of proven resistance that prevents it.

Rory Dear, European Editor/Technical Contributor
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