Four Digital Tech Applications Enhancing Defense Transportation

March 22, 2019

Digital technology affected the transportation industry early – in the 1990s – largely due to railcars and railroads as well as adoption by logistics providers. Things like onboard computers, tracking software and advanced GPS were common. However, the transportation industry is now experiencing a digital transformation, a revolution sparked by embedded computing, IIoT and automation.

This revolution is not exclusive to civilian transit, however. Transportation units across military industries and branches have digitized, especially with the help of dedicated Digital Service teams. Military missions are being driven, sometimes literally, by new technology keeping missions secure and soldiers safe. Here are four digital tech applications enhancing defense transportation.

Communications on Board

Unfortunately, this is one area of digital transformation that hasn’t been solved by military branches, especially in forces with many distributed units, like the US Army. Communications technologies in the civilian world have been optimized via smartphones such as iPhones and Android smart devices. However, translating these into military communications for trucks and tanks has been challenging.

The wide variety of deployed comms technology and network gaps prohibit vehicles from having the most modern systems. There are still analog, Cold-War era radios in the field that must connect as much as new, digitally-based comms units. However, Thales and other military industry leaders are constantly innovating to find the right fit. One Thales solution — their SYNAPS radio network — uses software to define a broadband tactical radio family solely for digital transformation. For now, their MBITR radio system is the most widely fielded handheld tactical radio in the 30-512MHz range.

As for network gaps, portable units that connect to satellites or make local networks do exist. However, they face harassment from hackers and enemy forces trying to access these networks. Military intelligence is constantly updating and innovating to ensure cybersecurity.

Autonomous Operations

Deloitte Insights published a comprehensive review of Digital-Age Transportation and highlighted that “…next-generation ‘connected vehicles’ can access, consume, create and share information with other vehicles and surrounding infrastructure in real time.” This connectedness is part of the IIoT paradigm shift and will only see greater success with autonomous technologies.

The US Army has had several robotic exhibitions demonstrating its R&D on autonomous technology. One of their displays revealed a self-driving Humvee with an automated machine gun. The practical application of this device, in conjunction with connected tech, is a coordinated, low-risk patrol vehicle capable of intelligent reconnaissance and defense. Another released project proposal calls for 70 self-driving supply trucks by 2020 for unmanned convoys.

Intelligent Systems on Board

Featured before in a Sealevel blog on Digital Twins, the US Navy has been a key adopter of digital technology to maintain its supremacy on home and international waters. One of its major projects was the implementation of its Digital Twin technology for the Aegis Combat System, an at-sea tactical and offensive program. This technology ensures maximum effectiveness and diminished downtime or catastrophic failures.

The Navy has also begun to use automated systems on ships to lower the number of sailors required to staff assets.

Defense Travel Systems for Defense Employees

In 2016, the US Department of Defense reported a travel spend of over $8.7 billion per year for employee defense travel. This expense related to the booking, expensing and managing of travel for DoD employees. The high cost was driven by several factors, but the inefficient user process to access the Defense Travel System (DTS) and the clunky authorization process contributed heavily.

In 2015, the DoD began the road to digitizing the outdated, cost-inducing DTS. The primary solution for these issues was a commercial Software-as-a-Service product. In the future, this solution will streamline user access and improve the authorization process securely.