Defence and security
FOSSI: Augmented reality military training system
Providing aircraft to support military training exercises is an expensive business but troops need to see the effect of airstrikes and the sort of damage that different types of airborne weaponry can cause. Augmented reality - overlaying computer-generated images and data onto live pictures - provides a lower-cost alternative, which Qinetiq and Qioptiq have joined forces to exploit.
FOSSI (fall of shot simulated indicator) superimposes a ’virtual weapon effect’ onto a real terrain view, providing military trainees with an impression of the impact a real weapon would have had. As well as being much cheaper than using real aircraft in ground troop training, it can be used in any weather conditions, minimises environmental impact and allows for training in no-fly areas.
FOSSI operates over wireless networks and can be integrated into GPS data. This means that it can be used not only to train ground troops, but also in conjunction with geographically distributed flight trainers: in other words, trainee aircrews can also take part in the exercises without having to dedicate real aircraft and removing the possibility of accidental casualties. The system has been tested by the Ministry of Defence in the UK and the US has requested the loan of two systems for trials with its armed forces.
Lightweight steels for Queen Elizabeth carrier flight deck
BAE Systems Surface Ships, Corus, University of Strathclyde, Air Liquide Welding
Needing to reduce the topside weight of the huge new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, BAE Systems decided to develop a new, thinner grade of steel plate to form the vessel’s flight deck. This involved close collaboration with steel producer Corus to produce a material that was tough enough for this application, even in lower-strength areas where two sheets were welded together.
BAE Systems created the specification for the material and Corus came up with a number of options. Finding that the initial materials did not have a large enough margin of safety in toughness to compensate for loss of toughness around weld areas, the partners decided to use tougher calcium-treated steel - the first time this has been considered for a shipbuilding application in the UK. Strathclyde University provided in-depth analysis of the steel’s structure, while Air Liquide Welding assisted with improving speed of welding for the flight deck and hangar areas. The new material can also be used, in thicker gauges, for areas of the ship that require blast protection.
The project succeeded in ’de-risking’ the choice of material from a different market sector and also demonstrated that, although the calcium-treated steel has a higher unit cost than the conventional, thicker steel plate, it is cheaper to use because the lower thickness - and therefore lighter weight - more than compensates for the higher price tag. Thinner plate also requires less welding, which leads to further savings and reduces the possibility of welding defects.
RTT80: Fast 3D scanning of baggage for airport security
Rapiscan, University of Manchester
Scanning airport baggage for explosives and other suspicious items is a time-consuming task. First, bags go through an automated X-ray system and, if this shows something that looks suspicious, the bag is put into a hospital-style X-ray computerised tomography (CT) scanner to build up a cross-sectional image of the offending article. But CT scanning is slow and the initial X-ray always throws up false positives. This project developed a system that can produce CT images in the same time as a single automated X-ray system, cutting out one step of the scanning process and reducing the cost of scanning while also reducing false positives.
Edward Morton of Rapiscan Systems developed a new type of CT scanner, replacing the rotating gantry of the hospital system with multiple X-ray sources placed around the scanned object. However, this meant that detectors couldn’t be located directly opposite the source, so he approached Prof Bill Lionheart of Manchester University to develop a reconstruction algorithm and X-ray scatter model that could take the data from the offset detectors and construct a 3D image in real time.
The system, called Real Time Tomography, uses purpose-designed X-ray sources and high-speed, high-efficiency detectors, as well as the novel mathematics needed to produce the images. Field tested at Manchester Airport and undergoing trials in the US and Europe, it is expected to enter production shortly and could replace conventional baggage X-ray systems around the world.