Reducing weight of embedded systems a top priority for militaryNews
May 11, 2023
SOF WEEK 2023 – TAMPA, Fla. Despite ever-increasing power requirements for military embedded systems, defense contractors are under constant pressure to still find a way to reduce the weight of those systems – a challenge that requires innovative approaches, industry insiders said at the 2023 SOF Week annual conference.
A significant part of ZMicro's business supports manned ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) programs for the Special Operations Forces community, so solving SWaP-C (size, weight, and power – and cost) challenges is a priority, said Jason Wade, president of ZMicro.
"These aircraft are crammed with tons of gear, tons of information, and at the end of the day, there's only so much fuel you can have on those aircraft," he said. Reducing the weight of the hardware can conserve fuel and extend the time an aircraft can spend in the air, Wade added.
Balancing size, weight, and power is a constant struggle for manufacturers – but cost is also a big concern. "What can you do to reduce costs? How can you leverage common components across product lines, across product families, to get economies of scale for some components that can then reduce the overall compute cost?" Wade asked.
ZMicro's approach to weight reduction involves a focus on size, weight, and cost. Power is more difficult for them to control, as customer demands for increased computing power limit their options. ZMicro is always looking at ways to reduce size and weight while maintaining cost-effectiveness, Wade said.
To achieve this, ZMicro has turned to innovative designs and materials, such as carbon fiber, to carve out weight from their components and solutions. They have also repackaged some solutions to create smaller, lighter alternatives, Wade said.
Another defense contractor, Galvion, is also addressing the weight issue through new approaches to power management. Ben Wearing, vice president of business development at Galvion, said the company tries to keep the weight of their products down while still meeting the growing power demands of their customers.
To lighten the load, Galvion has developed the Squad Power Manager, which enables individuals to go on a long mission without relying on multiple batteries for each piece of equipment.
"What this allows it to do is you can now pull energy from non-traditional power sources or use one central power source to now power your equipment," Wearing said. This helps reduce the load by eliminating the need for multiple batteries on the field.
Galvion has also explored alternative ways to generate power, such as solar blankets, which provide clean energy to power radios and X-ray detection machines. The Squad Power Manager can automatically regulate voltage, adapting to the energy needs of different devices.
One of the main challenges Galvion faces is transferring power data into a format that is useful for individual operators, such as situational awareness and power usage in real time. Additionally, the company has developed a high energy density battery, used by USSOCOM and the Marine Corps, which packs 98 watt-hours of energy into a small, lightweight form factor.