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AR Combat Systems in the Royal Navy’s Future

AR is being incorporated by the Royal Navy to create a cutting-edge UI for better communications.

BAE Systems, during a London briefing, announced the drive to update a warship of the Royal Navy with an AR mechanism, to improve the responsibilities of bridge watch officers through incorporating radar and sonar along with calculated data. The purpose of this move is to speed up crew communications. AI will be used to improve AR experience.

Frank Cotton, head of technology, Naval Combat Systems, BAE, expressed that the bridge watch officer’s responsibilities can be overbearing, during an interview to The Engineer. According to him, AR use will connect the dots to achieve a fully-functional digital layout which boosts operational efficiency. He revealed that AR glasses were preferred in comparison to headsets.

BAE’s soon to be implemented AR tech is a modded technology which the Royal Navy’s latest Striker helmet presently utilises. The helmets provide a display that blends the real-world with digital technology. Pilots can use it to distinguish among friendly and enemy forces, thereby getting the ability to strike faster within seconds.

The helmet, though, is not strictly for the use of bridge watch officers. Crew members will fetch AR communications via Microsoft HoloLens devices. BAE intends to reduce the use of HoloLens and a switch to lighter, easy-to-use devices.

The way the system works is simple. A bridge watch officer who has checked-in for duty at the Royal warship, will put on the Microsoft HoloLens and initiate a cutting-edge UI. In principle, the view can be compared to that of a sci-fi Hollywood movie, based on some BAE-provided concept photographs. The UI surface will deliver information regarding every aspect of an officer’s job. Utilising this system, soldiers will be able to take critical decisions without feeling the need to repeatedly clarify them other crew members.

A HoloLens device can be used by a bridge watch officer to observe objects at considerable distance, and use AI to fetch data regarding it. In case the data does not match up to the visuals, the data can be modified for future reference. Potential danger objects that can harm the warship can be flagged through the system, without alerting others.

With this development, AR is set to enhance and reinvent military workflows. However, there are certain limitations causing issues for BAE. For instance, dazzling ocean waters negatively affect visibility of HoloLens data. The drive to solve such issues is proactive owing to BAE’s association with the Royal Navy.

Technology such as gesture and touch control, voice activation and VR are also being used by the Royal Navy, apart from AI and AR. The combination of these technologies can result in better military operations. According to Cotton, however, there are still questions regarding the practicality of using all these technology forms.

The Royal Navy will spend about £20 million ($27 million) on BAE’s AR tech, as part of its defence contractor investment. The technology is set to be tested aboard a Type 23 frigate during in early 2019.



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