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Man portable military systems require Low Power Electronics technologies

The vision for the future soldier is to be combat effective and also highly mobile, adaptive, networked, sustainable with total battle space situation awareness and information assurance. Therefore, he is equipped with night- vision goggles, radios, smartphones, GPS, infrared sights, a laptop as well as batteries to power them.

 

The dismounted soldier depends on power sources, sensors, navigation aids, displays, data processing, and communications. Communications requires the most power, but substantial energy savings can be obtained by minimizing the power requirements for individual display data processing, and sensing functions. The power demands of the electronics needed for soldier applications include both low-power and high-power electronics applications (the latter include laser designators, microclimate cooling, and exoskeletons).

 

The  vison of Micro, Soldier, and Portable Power is long-lasting power for Soldier and autonomous microsystems. The major military organizations in the world are devising various ways for meeting enhanced soldier power requirements due to much equipment he carries, while also while reducing the logistical load thereby enhancing soldier’s agility on the battlefield. Some of the solutions are developing smaller, lighter, cost-effective power sources, switching to renewable energy options, flexible solar panels, wearable energy solutions, nuclear batteries, low power electronics, battery and power management.

 

Man portable military electronic systems include electronic equipment that can be operated, while being carried by dismounted soldier. The  electronic systems that are incorporated in the body armors of soldiers and mounted on their helmets; However this does not include weapons like rocket/grenade/missile-launching systems that are man-portable. Military applications  rely on small size, weight, and power consumption (SWaP) such as micro air vehicles,   soldier-worn electronics, and battlefield networking .

 

Specialized applications such as weapons, infrared sights, laser designators, the exoskeleton, and microclimate cooling require individual consideration. These applications in most cases depend on nonsilicon technology and are highly specialized for their function. Laser designators represent a unique power demand that can be many times greater than that of other electronics for the Objective Force Warrior (OFW). Systems now available to special operations forces operate at system voltages of 18 to 30, with a standby mode that draws 10 W and an active mode requiring 180 W. The active mode could last as long as 10 to 40 seconds, and specifications indicate that the battery complement required is five BA 5590/U lithium or four BB 590 NiCd batteries. Power requirements for new laser designating devices could easily override other considerations and control the selection of a centralized energy source for the soldier system.

 

Militaries are also developing exoskeleton prototype as part of a human performance augmentation program that is focused on developing load-carrying devices that will increase the speed, endurance, and load-carrying capacity of soldiers in combat environments. Specific target applications include moving heavy loads over rough terrain, bearing heavy weapons or equipment, carrying and powering breaching equipment, and using the exoskeleton as a platform for increased body armor. The vision is to utilize such devices with power supplies that are energetically autonomous of other power sources. Such exoskeleton devices must mimic human motions and provide close human/machine integration. Human/machine interfaces must provide for transparent control of the exoskeleton over extended periods of operation. hoices for the power supply to such exoskeleton devices are limited to those of extremely high specific power and specific energy.

 

Soldier microclimate management efforts have experimented with  variety of system approaches—from ice cooling systems to vapor compression and absorption refrigeration. The basic difficulty with management of the dismounted soldier’s microclimate is the large power requirement for such an effort. A dismounted soldier doing very light work such as guard duty has a work rate between 100 and 175 W. Light work such as cleaning a rifle has a work rate of 125 to 325 W. Moderate work such as foxhole digging has a work rate between 325 and 500 W. Heavy work such as emplacement digging has a work rate above 500 W. Since the human body is on the order of 18 percent efficient, these work rates would require cooling rates five times greater.

 

Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) are the three most important elements in portable military device design. If the system is too bulky, it
cannot be carried, and if it runs out of power, it cannot be used. A focus on power can help solve all three SWaP requirements, because the power needed directly impacts the size of the required batteries, and larger batteries compromise the size and weight constraints of portable devices. In order to design a successful portable device by maximizing power and minimizing size, electronics and applications must be designed for low power. Low-power electronic circuits are the basis of such device components as: processors, voltage converters and regulators, LCD displays, application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), etc.  The building block of integrated circuits (IC) is the transistor (plus capacitances, resistances, diodes, etc.).

 

The growing industrial need for creating, accessing, storing, processing, and communicating information is driven by modern business functions and by the growing demands of consumers for data acquisition, processing, and entertainment. Although at first stationary electronics systems were used, the industry has moved toward mobile systems, which require lightweight portable energy sources and equipment. Portable commercial and personal communications and data processing have evolved from crude hand-held instruments and bulky laptop computers to miniaturized cellular telephones and pagers, powerful notebook computers, portable global locating/positioning systems, and numerous entertainment systems.

 

The growing demand for computing, along with declining costs, has led to faster, smaller, more reliable integrated circuits that require less power. The technology accompanying these advances can be incorporated into the soldier’s electronics systems to make them more functional and to reduce power requirements. The commercial push toward smaller, higher performance portable systems for computing and personal communications will ensure that low power device and circuit technologies will be available to meet the requirements of the soldier system.

 

Communications and computation circuitry both make use of silicon integrated circuit technology, which is being driven by market requirements to be ever more energy efficient. But there are major differences in the degree to which communications and computing can exploit commercial advances to reduce power requirements. The challenge for military communications and computation circuitry applications is how best to capitalize on commercial advances.

 

The main driver of electronics has been semiconductor industry driven by the Moore’s Law which stated that the number of transistors on a chip will double approximately every two years has been in boosting the complexity, computational performance and energy efficiency while reducing cost. Microelectronics and solid state components have also been the backbone of the military systems and are main contributors in advancement of radar, communication and electronic warfare systems.

 

Low power Computing devices

There is a hierarchy of computation architectures for each computation application. Microcontrollers is a single integrated circuit that consists of processors code, programmable input/ output peripheral and memory. Microcontroller are designed for different application for personal computers and other general purpose applications consisting of different discrete chips. Microcontrollers are also used in mechanically controlled devices and products such as office machines, remote controls, appliances, implantable medical devices, automobile engine control systems, toys, power tools, and other embedded systems.

 

Over the last decade, the usage of the ultra-low power microcontrollers technology has grown significantly in different application. Ultra-low power microcontrollers facilitate a proper balance between cost-effectiveness, security, power and performance in the energy-efficient applications of embedded systems. The integration of ultra-low power microcontroller units is considered ideal for applications that demand a long battery life, huge coding space and cryptographic algorithms.

 

Ultra-low-power microcontrollers allow components and devices to operate and process the data by consuming extremely low power. These microcontrollers extend the battery life and operational lifetime of devices. These ultra-low-power microcontrollers are the best fit for sensor nodes in IoT, connected devices, consumer devices, wearables, and other low power electronics.

 

For signal processing (video compression, data communications) the energy efficiency can vary over many orders of magnitude. In order of energy efficiency, the least efficient are standard microprocessor architectures (even with power optimizations such as X-scale). Specialized processors that can implement signal processing functions can be up to 10 times more efficient. Field-programmable gate arrays are even more energy efficient since they can implement highly parallel solutions. If full flexibility is not required, then application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) solutions can be employed; these provide another order of magnitude improvement in efficiency.

 

Low power Communication

Among the many technologies enabling autonomous systems, Low Power communications is one of the most important to foster their dissemination and operation in any environment. Besides, low power communications support pervasive IoT and in turns this generates data that can be used both by autonomous systems to make sense of the environment (emerging intelligence and awareness) and by ambient orchestrators. These data are also feeding into the digital twins, making shadowing more and more accurate, again, a feature that enables more autonomy (and performance) to autonomous systems.

 

The power consumption of some interfaces, such as UARTs and GPIOs, is negligible, while other interfaces such as cellular modems are capable of using up to 3W. Unexpected power consumption can also occur with wired interfaces, which are generally assumed to be low power. For example, higher-speed wired interfaces, such as USB or Ethernet, can consume as much power as a wireless interface (Table 1). This power consumption is in addition to increased processor power to parse data from these devices.

 

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Low Power communications can use a number of different communications protocols and systems, from Narrowband (NB) IoT, LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network), SigFox to LTE-M and in a few years 5G. Among these LoRaWAN have the bigger market share (50% in 2018) because they use unlicensed spectrum and are suitable for applications generated low traffic volume (which is typically the case for IoT).

 

Displays

Displays are often the most power-hungry feature of a portable device. However, displays have become ever-crucial to successful military device design as evidenced by the increased popularity of touch screens in such devices. When it comes to balancing power budgets with performance, displays provide a unique challenge – particularly in military devices, where power and size requirements are among the strictest.

 

Therefore, LCDs are typically not the best choice because mil-spec devices often require extended runtime, along with daylight readability as the devices are often used outdoors in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time. Although the trend has been to increase display brightness, this greatly impacts devices’ battery life, leading to a larger battery and device or to shorter runtime. To manage the balance between display usability and military requirements, a number of power-savvy display options are available. The most interesting and promising are new emerging technologies such as Active Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (AMOLED) displays and Electrophoretic Displays (EPDs).

 

Most of the power of an LCD is consumed driving the backlight, which must be on in order to view the display. In contrast, the organic material used in each cell of the AMOLED emits light when voltage is applied, hence AMOLEDs do not require a backlight. This greatly reduces the display’s portion of power consumption in the device when displaying bright colors on only portions of the display. Another key aspect of AMOLEDs that makes them well-suited for mobile devices is their high contrast ratio, which is typically 10,000:1, whereas, LCD displays are typically on the order of 300:1 or 500:1. This high contrast ratio means that when comparing an AMOLED with an LCD of the same brightness, the AMOLED will be more daylight readable.

 

Efficient power electronics

Signal processing for modern military radars, weapon systems, avionics, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) payloads, missile control, etc., use processing power that generates tremendous amounts of heat. Therefore the more efficient the power electronics – 90 percent is the norm today – the less heat that needs to be dissipated and the more performance system integrators can pack into the same footprint each time they upgrade.

 

“The key characteristics military customers want from power components are high efficiency, high density, and high reliability over a long life. Very high reliability (high-rel) is needed in power electronics for aviation and military systems where products such as missiles that may sit in storage for as long as 20 years, but then still need to work when placed in mission critical applications,” says Martin Schlect, President and CEO of SynQor in Boxborough, MA. “The density of a power supply goes hand-in-hand with its efficiency, but often designers are limited by how much heat can dissipate from a product.

Power management

Effective software management should also be utilized to minimize power consumption (and thus device size) without compromising system performance. Power-saving techniques must be implemented to reduce the power of hardware when not in use, and thus reduce the need for a larger battery that could compromise the SWaP of a portable military device. The most common technique is using switchable voltage rails on unused hardware. The primary advantage of switching off voltage rails is that the hardware will use no power. This technique will offer
best results when the device interconnection to the rest of the system is simple such as a USB port or UART.

 

Another power-saving hardware management technique is the proper use of low-power modes, including reduced functionality and sleep states. Unlike switchable voltage rails, the data lines will go to a safer high-impedance mode that will generally not interfere with overall system operation. Another advantage is that the device will typically recover more quickly than a switchable rail when resuming to full operation and will not require as much re-initialization. A device does still consume some power in sleep mode, but consumption is generally nominal.

 

Power Management ICs

Power management ICs are used to manage the accurate power flow in portable and handheld devices, such as cell phone power amplifiers and LED display, CPU, DRAM, Graphics, High Speed I/O and USB. In addition, under-voltage or other fault conditions are monitored to prevent damage to the system. The soft-start feature reduces stress on power supply components and increase product reliability. Implementation is typically done using analog integrated circuits but there is a strong trend to move towards digital or mixed signal implementation.

 

Integrated Circuits

Low power design is a collection of techniques and methodologies aimed at reducing the overall dynamic and static power consumption of an integrated circuit (IC). The goal of low power design is to reduce the individual components of power as much as possible, thereby reducing the overall power consumption. The power equation contains components for dynamic and static power. Dynamic power is comprised of switching and short-circuit power; whereas static power is comprised of leakage, or current that flows through the transistor when there is no activity. The value of each power component is related to any of the following factors: Activity, Frequency, Transition time, Capacitive load Voltage, Leakage current, and Peak current.

 

For example, the higher the voltage, the higher the power consumed by each component, resulting in higher overall power. Conversely, the lower the voltage, the lower the overall power. To achieve the best performance with the lowest power consumption, tradeoffs for each of these different factors are tried and tested via various low power techniques and methodologies.

 

Companies are continuing to push the boundaries on new features and functionality, all packed into portable, handheld, and battery powered devices. For such products, improving the battery life by minimizing power consumption is a huge differentiator and extremely important to their end users’ applications. Improving the time it takes for a device to go from OFF/SLEEP state to ON/ACTIVE state is just as important, as the end user wants to have a seamless experience along with longer battery life.

 

For “plug-in” products, power consumption is also important because it can affect the overall cost of systems by requiring heat sinks and elaborate cooling systems, increasing electricity costs, etc. For example, in server farms, where massively parallel systems are used, a reduction in power for a single chip can result in significant power savings because it is used throughout the system. The power and cost savings by upgrading these systems with newer and more power efficient ICs can be significant.

 

Man-Portable Military Electronics Market

The Global Man Portable Military Electronics Market is estimated to grow from USD 3.6 billion in 2020 to USD 4.6 billion by 2026 at a healthy CAGR of 4.2% during the forecast period.

The Man-portable military electronics are designed to improve the safety, connectivity, and protection of troops on the battlefield. It also helps to counter-terrorism operations. They receive and transmit signals such as video, audio, and data through satellite connectivity. The man-portable military electronic devices include portable radio and weapon sight & scopes.

Growing terrorist activities and increasing military spending by nations across the world are enabling the respective armies to procure more man-portable military electronic systems for enhancing their land-based warfare capabilities. These trends are expected to help the market during the forecast period.

The emphasis on the modernization of soldiers is growing in various countries. The focus on this is expected to drive in more investments for the man-portable military electronics market in the years to come. Research in powered exoskeleton technologies is expected to provide growth opportunities for the market in the years to come.

 

Segment Analysis

Application Trends

Based on application, the market has been divided into communication, command & control, ancillary electronics, EO/IR (electro-optical/infrared) and ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance).

The communication segment accounted for the largest share in 2020 on account of the widespread use of man-portable military electronics for milit

ISTAR Segment Projected to Grow at a High Pace

Currently, the communications segment of the market studied has the highest share out of all the segments. The increased use of man-pack radios by dismounted soldiers is the primary reason for the high share of this segment. However, growth rates are expected to be high in the ISTAR segment. ISTAR includes intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, as well as reconnaissance. ISTAR capabilities help in linking together several battlefield functions, to assist a combat force in deploying their sensors on the battlefield, as well as managing the information the unit gathers. Thus, the focus is currently on this segment, which is the reason for its high expected CAGR.

 

Asia-Pacific expected to Record the Highest Growth

The market in North America accounted for the largest share in 2020. The market growth in the region can be attributed to the presence of strong military industry and key market players such as Harris Corporation (The U.S), General Dynamics Corporation (The U.S), and Northrop Grumman Corporation (The U.S).

 

However, the growth of the Asia-Pacific market is anticipated to be higher during the forecast period. Emerging economies in Asia-Pacific, like India, China, and Japan, are investing significant amounts in modernizing their armed forces. These modernization programs are further being boosted by the increasing defense spending from these countries, which collectively, has a positive impact on the growth of the market.

 

Key players are Harris Corporation (The U.S), General Dynamics Corporation (The U.S),

Northrop Grumman Corporation (The U.S), Elbit Systems Ltd (Israel), Exelis Inc. (The U.S),
Codan Limited (Australia), FLIR Systems (The U.S), Aselsan (Turkey), Leonardo S.p.A. (Italy),
L3 Technologies (The U.S), Saab AB (Sweden), Lockheed Martin Corporation (The U.S), and
BAE Systems plc (UK).

 

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