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Why electronics size, weight, and power really matter

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Mon, 12 Sep 2011|


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[MUSIC] this is the Military & Aerospace Electronics Report, I'm John Keller. I wish I had a nickel for every time I've heard size, weight and power in describing the needs of electronics design for aerospace and defense uses. Yeah, yeah, SWAP. Please, I've heard it before. I know electronic components are getting smaller. It's the technological story of the past 30 years or so and sometimes, I just get tired of hearing it. That is, until I see a story as compelling as I did today that drives home why some of the most important reasons why shrinking size, weight and power. So important. Our friends at General Dynamics C4 Systems in Scottsdale, Arizona, are about to take on a challenge that, well, I think it's pretty amazing. They're about to tackle a project to design and install a chip in a soldier's walkie-talkie that detects chemical, biological and radioactive threats and then. Sends out a warning in real time to anyone on that tactical network. Imagine that. A chip that fits in a soldier's radio, and that handles chemical, biological, radiation detection, as well as the wireless networking capability necessary to characterize the threat. And broadcast the alarm. All that, in just one ship. Which most likely will be a field-programmable gate array, or FPGA. The army research development and engineering centers Edgewood branch at Aberdeen proving ground in Maryland, is negotiating a contract with General Dynamics, to create software. For the joint warning and reporting networks component interface device on a chip. Then they'll install that chip in the ANPRC154 Rifleman Radio, which General Dynamics builds as part of the Army's joint tactical radio system family. Think of it like this, many soldiers on the battlefield, if not every soldier will have a radio with a chemical biological radiation detector built in. Now, imagine a cloud of poison gas, biological agents, or radiation that wafts down over some of those soldiers. These specially equipped radios will detect a threat and relay its type and concentration over the radio's tactical communications network. Some processor located somewhere on that network will analyze all the threat data and create a picture overlay on a map. Of just where the threat exists, and where it's most dangerous. Then, over those same soldier radios, soldiers on the scene can receive those threat maps, which they can view over a variety of wearable or helmet mounted displays. All this information. Available in seconds, made possible by just a chip mounted unobtrusively in a soldier's handheld radio. Next time I get sick of hearing about SWAP, I'll think about this project and about what SWAP truly represents. For the Military and Aerospace Electronics report. I'm John Keller. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO]