Defence is constantly evolving as technology improves, and armed forces have to keep up with the newest military trends and look for opportunities to get ahead of the enemy. Tactical augmented reality systems will revolutionize how soldiers access information and conduct operations.With the expanding possibilities of data and graphics processing, the number of uses of augmented reality in military will grow exponentially.Militaries of the worldwere one of the first to realize the importance of augmented reality (AR). Before we discuss the use of augmented reality in military, let us first understand what AR is.
Defining Augmented Reality
Augmented reality, which is commonly abbreviated as 'AR', superimposes computer generated content on a real world environment. It is thus a mix of reality and computer imagery.As a technology, augmented reality has been around for a really long time – about four decades or so. But the recent advances in augmented reality software - like PTC Vuforia Studio - coupled with Industry 4.0, has ushered an era of tremendous growth in the sectors that use it. While the military was the first to put AR to good use, other fields like manufacturing, medical and education have been using it as well.
It is important to realize that while they sound similar, AR and VR (virtual reality) are distant technologies. While augmented reality combines reality and simulation, VR is a totally immersive experience in which the user is completely cut off from the real world.
Use of AR in Military / Defence
AR and VR find many uses in military today. For this article, we will be focusing on the use of AR in the defence sector.
There are two ways AR is used in military – one, to train military personnel and two, for efficient maintenance of vehicles, aircrafts, gadgets & equipments.
AR for Defence Training
Military training is the backbone of defence. Without training, it is not possible to send soldiers into a real combat. The first and foremost example of using AR in defence sector was in training soldiers. Augmented reality enabled devices like a head-mounted display can overlay blueprints or a view from a satellite or overheard drone directly onto the soldiers' field of vision. This would enable them to perform reconnaissance on an opposition hideout. Defence manufacturers are already supplying such headsets to armies all over the world - from U.S.A to India.
AR for Drones
A miniature unmanned aerial vehicle or aircraft is called a drone. It is operated remotely, without a human pilot on board. In recent years, drones have proved to be an invaluable tool for militaryoperations. With the right AR software like Vuforia Studio, drone technology can be an effective tool for surveillance, providing real time data for the military. AR equipped drones offer the potential for object recognition and creation of sophisticated tracking system of people, objects and military vehicles. Military drone data feeds could identify suspicious enemy movement with some additional images, text or marks over them - just as you can see lines and names of the streets on Google satellite map.
AR for Pilots
Training pilots is an important part of Defence training.Military planes are a costly affair, running into millions of rupees per aircraft. In addition, pilots need to be trained in a safe environment first, before letting them actually fly a plane. Both AR and VR play a significant role in pilot training. Using augmented reality assisted 3D overlay, pilots can visualize navigation systems, work with air-traffic control, experience weather conditions and even understand tough terrains. Augmented reality plays a significant role in take-offs and landing training, two very crucial roles of the pilot. In addition, it comes in handy for training of aircraft ground maintenance crew. AR technology thus has the potential to save the Defence sector in India (and other countries) a lot of money in pilot training and aircraft maintenance.
One more area where AR and VR technologies are useful in pilot training is complex activities like mid-airrefuelling and in flying formations. Both the tasks are extremely difficult in real life, without simulated training first. Thanks to augmented and virtual reality software, it is possible to train pilots in these advanced manoeuvre techniques in order to increase their efficiency and operability.
AR for the Navy
Navies of the world have some unique requirements, and augmented reality technology is set to help them. For example, the task of a Bridge Officer is to keep a watch on the ship's course and keep it safe. Traditionally, these officers request the information they need via radio from the operations room to verify what they can physically see. However, this system is inefficient. Augmented reality assisted devices enable Bridge Officers to get the information they need without having to call anyone in real time, reducing their workload and ensuring better safety of the ship. Augmented reality enabled goggles would also allow navy personnel to blend real-world visuals with data generated by sensors, like radars and sonar. Likewise, deck gunnery teams are also potential users of AR technology.
While the use cases may vary, there are no doubts that augmented reality is set to disrupt the way the Defence sector of the future will operate.
The Future of AR for Defence Market
As the militaries of the world compete with each other to be better equipped, there is a strong demand for technology drivers like augmented reality and virtual reality. With its ability to superimpose computer generated information like text, images and videos, AR has found many takers in Defence, especially for training military personnel. Coming back to pilots, engineers have incorporated night vision within pilots’ helmets so that they can still use AR and see in the dark without having to wear cumbersome night-vision goggles. In the future, tactile clothing could give further information – a tap on the shoulder to indicate a threat for instance. It is not surprising then that the worldwide AR market for the Defence sector is set to grow at about 18% - from about Rs. 36580 million in 2017 to about Rs. 128473 million in 2025.