At the 2019 NSIN hackathon, several operators spoke strongly and repeatedly about the enormous weight of the equipment required for clandestine missions. As they have to frequently carry all of their equipment on their backs, this weight impairs their mobility, puts them at risk for injuries, and increases the overall hazards involved in their line of work.
What it does
Thanks to next generation advancements in composite materials design and manufacturing, we can eliminate much of the metal involved in current "ruggedized" military cases with newer aramid and carbon-fiber based materials. This eliminates a significant amount of weight as these materials weigh 30% less than the highest-grade ultralight aluminum alloys, while still being up to 5+ times as strong as steel.
Challenges I ran into
As military equipment is required to withstand a wide variety of extremely harsh conditions, finding materials that were commercially available and capable of withstanding the required range of conditions was quite challenging. Furthermore, as materials can fail in a large variety of ways (corrosion, cold, humidity, etc), I needed to consider how a material would behave on not just a short term level, but a long term one as well.
What I learned
In talking to operators and other field experts, I gained, hopefully, a better understanding of some the conditions that we put our service members through, as well as ways in which we can better enable them to return home safely.
What's next for Next-Generation Radio Encasement Design
Ideally, we would like to build a working prototype using our designs and test them under simulated conditions to see how they perform in comparison to currently used designs. We would also like to explore extending these concepts from handheld gear to field routers, switches, and other communications/electronics equipment.