Honeywell and DARPA’s GXV-T: Giving Operators a Clear View of the Battlefield

October 3, 2016 | Author: Doug Harris

We are always hearing about how virtual reality is changing the gaming industry, but what about our military? As technology continues to advance, Honeywell wants to showcase how these new technologies can be applied to innovate on the existing ways military personnel perform in combat.

The Ground X-Vehicle Technologies (GXV-T) program from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) seeks to overcome the challenges that armored fighting vehicles face — designs are becoming increasingly heavy, less mobile and more expensive, which limits the ability to rapidly deploy forces and accomplish missions in varied and evolving threat environments. Part of helping the GXV-T program accomplish its goals is making sure that the operators of future armored ground vehicles have a better view of what’s going on outside.

Do you even need a window in the vehicle of the future?

That’s what we considered, and as it turns out, the answer may be no. Honeywell recently signed a $2.3 million follow-on contract with DARPA to continue with our second phase of testing this theory. Our original contract had us working on the concept of a windowless land vehicle. This second phase will focus on real-world tests and expanded capabilities. We’re working to create a virtual window that will provide drivers with a clear 360-degree view outside the vehicle and other critical pieces of information necessary to perform their mission. This contract brings us one step closer to developing safer and more effective military vehicles of the future.

How is Honeywell doing all of this?

We’re using all the research and development we’ve accumulated over the years from flight controls, human physiology, human performance, and performance of display systems to develop a revolutionary augmented and virtual reality system. In fact, many of our avionic advances, such as the SmartView synthetic vision system, translate over to ground vehicle use.

In our first phase (July 2015-July 2016) we tested the feasibility of this concept and we:

  • Provided our test subjects with a near-to-eye display that worked with stereo camera sensors plus an integrated lower-resolution active “window” display.
  • Made sure our test subjects operated a test vehicle with just the near-to-eye display and then with a combined near-to-eye and active window display system. We also used a GoPro camera and standard display as a control.
  • Evaluated and analyzed operator performance and acceptance when operating our test vehicle using the different system configurations.

Phase 2 of this program is scheduled to culminate in May 2017 with testing of an enhanced version of the system. In this phase of the program, we plan to:

  • Complete tests in Yuma, Arizona, and have actual military vehicle operators test the virtual window system.
  • Work to increase the field of view our cameras provide by using six cameras in total to give an almost 180-degree external view in front of the test vehicle.
  • Move away from the flat window display and focus on an active window display in a windowless vehicle.

The GXV-T program seeks to improve the next generation of tanks, armored vehicles and other military ground vehicles. Goals of the program include reduction in soldiers’ workloads and enabling them to focus solely on executing their mission. Honeywell wants to one day make it possible for drivers to drive without relying on the view through a window. We’re committed to developing the technology so drivers will have all the information they need, and more, right in front of their eyes, instead of limiting them to only what they can see ahead of them.

To learn more about the GXV-T program, visit the DARPA GXV-T program page on the DARPA website.

Doug Harris

Doug Harris

Senior Technical Manager at Honeywell Aerospace