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Army 'upcycles,' reuses old gear for new technologies

July 2, 2012

By Kimberly Bell, CERDEC Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate Public Affairs

FORT BELVOIR, Va. (July 2, 2012) -- Upcycling is not only "en vogue," it is also the right thing to do as Army researchers are championing reuse of drawn-down or demilitarized items to save time, money and the environment.

The Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate recently completed a project for the Rapid Equipping Force on reusing discarded Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station imaging sensors for inexpensive, ground-based persistent surveillance systems.

The M153 Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station is known as CROWS. The CROWS system gives Soldiers the ability to remotely target and fire a weapon mounted atop a vehicle. The Soldier stays safely inside the vehicle. The technology behind the system has the potential to be recycled if the CROWS is disabled.

Army engineers experimented with commercial, off-the-shelf computer hardware and developed new software control functionality needed to operate the sensors separately from the existing old CROWS electronics units.

The software, integrated by Allison Thackston and Sean Jellish, electronics engineers at CERDEC NVESD, allows for an operator to change sensor parameters and control the sensors on a pan/tilt unit, enabling the use of sensors within a new mission area.

For this project, called CROWS ISR, Bob Mayer, a mechanical engineer at CERDEC NVESD used a commercially available hardware processor board to host new software, mounted the sensors on a tripod and added a GPS.

CERDEC received hardware and software components to complete system integration with new packaging and successfully demonstrated the "upcycled" technology.

Mike Jennings, Special Products and Prototyping Division director at NVESD calls item reuse, like CROWS ISR, "innovative reset." He believes that with the draw-down, an opportunity to recycle excess items coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan for current and future needs is burgeoning.

Reusing technologies can save the taxpayers a significant amount of money, he said. For instance, using these demilitarized items saves two-thirds the cost of a new commercial equivalent to a new and improved CROWS-ISR sensor system.

The collaborative effort could be the model for upcycling many of the Department of Defense's demilitarized items, saving time, money and environment.

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