Squid-inspired stick-on camo to let future soldiers evade infrared

The solder of the future may be able to sneak into enemy-held locations and evade opposing forces by wearing disposable stick-on camo – based on squid biology – that renders them undetectable to night vision-enabling infrared cameras and sensors.

Although not yet ready for use, the technology has been presented by its inventors from the University of California at Irvine, who believe it has considerable potential for use in the field.

“Soldiers wear uniforms with the familiar green and brown camouflage patterns to blend into foliage during the day, but under low light and at night, they’re still vulnerable to infrared detection,” said lead researcher Dr Alon Gorodetsky.

“We’ve developed stickers for use as a thin, flexible layer of camo with the potential to take on a pattern that will better match the soldiers’ infrared reflectance to their background and hide them from active infrared visualization.”

squid-camo

Image courtesy of the American Chemical Society, who will have the research presented to them at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition today.

With an appearance and texture similar to sticky tape, but coated with a reflective protein, the camo is designed to stick to the fabric camp uniforms of soldiers.

Known as “invisibility stickers”, they would be worn only when needed, and are designed to quickly be added or removed as required: the team envision soldiers carrying a roll of the camo with their kit, ready to be used at a moment’s notice.

Although not the most sophisticated solution to camouflage, the stickers are designed to be very cheap to produce, making them an appealing way for cash-strapped militaries to provide ground troops with infrared-proof camouflage.

“We’re going after something that’s inexpensive and completely disposable,” added Gorodetsky. “You take out this protein-coated tape, you use it quickly to make an appropriate camouflage pattern on the fly, then you take it off and throw it away.”

The protein coating the infrared-resistant surface is known as reflectin, and is also found in the camouflage-inducing cells of squid, called iridocytes.

The researchers saw squid biology as key to producing the infrared-resistance capabilities, and were able to identify the reflectin and reproduce it using bacteria.

However, finding a workable way to trigger the light-reflecting properties of reflectin on the camo has been more challenging.

The researchers first tried exposing the film to acetic acid vapors, which works in that it makes the film invisible to infrared cameras but would be a nightmare in the field.

“What we were doing was the equivalent of bathing the film in acetic acid vapors – essentially exposing it to concentrated vinegar,” said Gorodetsky. “That is not practical for real-life use.”

Now the researchers are working on a solution that stretches the material to make it infrared-proof, and also allows multiple stickers to respond in unison.

However, the team believe that the stickers could also be used to trap or release body heat in clothes if re-tuned to a different infrared wavelength, meaning this squid-inspired technology could form the climate-adapting clothing of tomorrow.


Featured image courtesy of Katarzyna Mazurowska / Shutterstock.com.


 

Russia announces testing of country-wide drone control network, paving way for commercial boom

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has announced that it will begin testing a vast drone control network that will run across the nation.

The network, which is based on the country’s extensive existing satellite system, will allow small UAVs to safely operate in massive numbers within Russian airspace.

Once established, it will likely lead to an explosion in the commercial use of drones in the country, with drone deliveries in particular becoming viable on an unprecedented scale.

The announcement was made at Navitech 2017 in Moscow yesterday by experts from Russian Space Systems, a space hardware company owned by Roscosmos. Outlining the details of the system, they said that testing would begin this year, but did not provide a precise date for its start.

Each drone in the network will follow a route determined by the system, with ground-based infrastructure continuously receiving real-time data about its location and flight parameters.

This will immediately be processed and disseminated across the network, to ensure that large numbers of drones can be safely flown at any time, without interfering with both each other and traditional airspace traffic.

The network will not require the establishment of major new infrastructure, as all data will be transmitted through a combination of existing systems: FM transmitters, the country’s established cellular communication systems and GLONASS, Russia’s global satellite navigation system, which has provided 100% coverage of the country since 2011.

The system will also provide real-time data about no-fly zones, allowing routes to be adjusted immediately in response to changing information, and will offer a “platform of integrated applications” to UAV operators, content providers and insurance companies.

Roscosmos believes that the system will significantly reduce operating costs for drone owners by limiting the risks involved with running a commercial drone operation, as well as creating the conditions for new industries to emerge.

Among the industries the space agency expects to blossom through the adoption of the network are drone insurance, cloud software that would increase the capabilities of drones and what it calls “convenient services” – a term that likely refers to drone deliveries.

If the platform does deliver on this hope, it is likely Russia would become the first country with an extensive drone delivery network, realising a dream that was first brought to prominence by Amazon back in 2013. However, the US-based company is unlikely to become the main player in the Russian market, having as yet shown little interest in the country for its Prime Air operations.

As with many countries, drone deliveries are currently a rare occurrence in Russia, with notable exceptions including DoDo Pizza, a Syktyvkar-based company that began delivering pizzas to local residents back in 2014.

NFL players’ union signs historic deal that will enable players to sell their own performance data and make them “healthier and wealthier”

The NFL players association (NFLPA) has signed a landmark deal with human performance company WHOOP that will give players access to, ownership of and the option to sell their individual health data.

All current and future NFL players will be issued with a WHOOP Strap 2.0, which allows them to, without interference from their clubs, monitor their own performance, recovery and sleep.

WHOOP’s strap contains five sensors that measure data 100 times per second and automatically transmit it to accompanying mobile and web apps. WHOOP has also developed a Team Dashboard, which it says has “27 levels of privacy to ensure sharing data is completely secure and comfortable for all parties involved”.

“Our mission at WHOOP is to empower athletes. This partnership with the NFLPA is truly the first of its kind in that athletes will finally become both healthier and wealthier by collecting, controlling, and ultimately having the ability to sell their own health and performance data,” said Will Ahmed, founder and CEO at WHOOP.

“We applaud the NFLPA’s vision and share its commitment to work with athletes to better monitor their recovery and enable longer careers.”

Image and featured image courtesy of Alan Kotok

The partnership between the NFLPA and WHOOP is the first of its kind and was secured through the OneTeam Collective, which is an initiative designed to give companies like WHOOP the opportunity to leverage the NFLPA’s exclusive player rights.

WHOOP has hinted at seeking further partnerships with players’ unions in future.

In addition to owning their own data, as part of the agreement NFL players can design custom licensed bands for the WHOOP Strap, which will be made available commercially and allow players to further monetise the arrangement between the two parties.

“Every day, NFL players produce data that can translate into physiological and financial opportunities. We see partnering with WHOOP as the first step in harnessing this exciting technology,” said Ahmad Nassar, President of NFL Players Inc.

“We are excited to have WHOOP and its innovative, holistic monitoring technology serve as our first OneTeam Collective deal. Together, we’re paving the way towards a new frontier where athletes are empowered by data.”

Russell Okung playing for the Denver Broncos in 2016. Image courtesy of By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 4.0

Along with the commercial opportunities WHOOP will offer players, the partnership also promises to help players optimise training and recovery, improve performance and reduce injuries.

The NFLPA and WHOOP will both study the effects travel, sleep, scheduling and injuries have on recovery and generate reports for players aimed at boosting athletic performance.

“WHOOP and the NFLPA are putting the power of data directly in the players’ hands. I want to recover faster, avoid injuries, and have a longer career. This partnership has the potential to contribute to my health, which is imperative to my career in football,” said Russell Okung of the Los Angeles Chargers.