Tuesday, January 16, 2007

U.S. Air Force, Boeing demonstrate advanced airborne networking first

This illustration shows how the Project Marti concept would work in an urban combat scenario. The near-space vehicle (at center, above) receives near real-time data and images (represented by yellow lines) from lower-altitude unmanned aerial systems through an Internet Protocol network. An information broker onboard the near-space vehicle distributes to ground troops and ground stations only the data (represented by red lines) that matches users’ subscriptions. (Boeing graphic)

Boeing Phantom Works and the U.S. Air Force have demonstrated for the first time how -- with advanced airborne networking and information management technology -- a near-space vehicle can be used as a flexible, low-cost, theaterwide information broker that provides real-time tactical information to ground forces to enhance their effectiveness and survivability.

The demonstration, held late last year in Chandler, Ariz., was the first in a series of experiments dubbed Project Marti (after Radio Marti, a U.S. government radio station that broadcasts information 24/7). The Marti concept seeks to combine the wide-area coverage and loiter time of a near-space vehicle -- such as a High Altitude Long Endurance concept vehicle -- with the sensing ability and agility of lower-altitude unmanned air systems -- such as the Boeing/Insitu Group's ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial System.

"The challenge here is much more than just the establishment of a high-altitude communications relay," said Patrick Stokes, Phantom Works manager of Network-Centric Operations-related programs. "It's really all about effectively bringing the power of real-time information to bear within a tactical theater, and doing so without the need for an expensive, fixed infrastructure."

To bring this communication power to the troops, Project Marti is leveraging innovative information management brokering techniques to provide advanced publish-and-subscribe capabilities across a broad geographical region. Researchers from Phantom Works and the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate recently conducted an initial risk-reduction demonstration of these capabilities.

In the demonstration, multiple information sources, including ground-based software clients representing low-altitude unmanned aerial systems (such as the Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle), delivered near real-time imagery and data through an Internet Protocol network to an airborne information broker (onboard a balloon acting as a surrogate for a near-space vehicle).

The sources transmitted the data simultaneously in a Cursor-on-Target format that allows accurate tactical information to be passed more efficiently among multiple systems. The information broker then successfully distributed to ground stations only the data that matched users' subscriptions.

"This demonstration was the first instance of an airborne information manager storing published UAS sensor data for delivery to ground-based subscribers, who could then utilize that data on a tactical display," said Jim Paunicka, Phantom Works principal investigator on Project Marti. "The subscribers need only display the data that's relevant to their tactical missions, much in the way that an Internet user would employ a search engine to obtain relevant information."

Future tests in Project Marti will expand the amount and complexity of data as well as the number of assets involved. The tests will culminate in a tactically relevant live flight demonstration in which multiple airborne and near-space assets will operate over an extended range to support a large number of ground units.

During this final demonstration, planned for early 2008, live imagery and tactical data from UAS sensors (including those onboard a ScanEagle) will be published to the airborne network through an information broker on a high-altitude surrogate near-space vehicle -- a balloon that will be launched to about 80,000 feet (24,380 meters). Ground units will be able to collaborate with each other to subscribe to data relevant to their respective missions.

Project Marti is one of several programs that support the AFRL's Tactical Information Dominance vision to show how combined UAS and near-space assets can provide widespread information access in tactical operations.

Video: Netflix to offer online movie viewing

From CNN:
Online movie rental service Netflix introduced a new feature Tuesday to allow customers to watch movies and television series on their personal computers and said it will make the new feature available to its subscribers in a phased rollout during the next six months.

Netflix (Charts) will continue to offer DVDs by mail to customers for a fixed monthly fee. They will have the additional option of instantly watching about 1,000 movies and television series on their PCs at no additional cost, according to the company's statement.

Customers using the service will have to perform a one-time installation of a browser applet that will take less than a minute. Then most subscribers' movie selections will begin playing in their Web browser in as little as 10 to 15 seconds after loading.

Movies can be paused and a position bar gives viewers the ability to jump to any point in the movie.

Internet connectivity with a minimum of one megabit per second of bandwidth is required. Faster connections are needed for better quality playback of the programming, with DVD quality possible with a three-megabit-per-second connection, according to the company.

The service will base the number of online viewing hours on a customer's plan. A client with the entry-level $5.99 a month plan will be able to watch movies online for six hours a month, while those with the full $17.99 a month plan that allows them to rent three DVDs at a time will be able to watch 18 hours a month online.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Project Grizzly inventor crafts real-world Halo suit for military use

Via Engadget:
While it's not likely that you'll encounter the Arbiter on any given day, the slightly off-kilter Project Grizzly inventor has gone out of his way (and possibly his mind) to create what resembles a real-life Halo suit, sporting protection from gunfire and ensuring you an award at Covenant gatherings. Troy Hurtubise created the suit, dubbed Trojan, in hopes of protecting Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan and US soldiers in Iraq, and considering that it has withstood knives, bullets, light explosives, clubs, and even a round from an elephant gun, it sounds like quite the winner. Proclaimed to be the "first ballistic, full exoskeleton body suit of armor," Trojan is crafted from high-impact plastic lined with ceramic bullet protection over ballistic foam, and features nearly endless compartments, morphine / salt containers, knife and gun holsters, emergency lights, a built-in recording device, pepper spray, ingestible transponder for those "last resort" scenarios, and there's even a fresh air system powered by solar panels within the helmet. Mr. Hurtubise claims the 18 kilograms (40 pounds) suit is comfortable enough to make road trips in (yes, he tried it), and if any major military would take him up on it, they could reportedly be produced for "around $2,000 apiece." Now that's a bargain, folks.