Think small when powering today's electronic soldier

On the battlefield, having a reliable source of power to operate the many advanced electronic devices a soldier carries is essential. But today’s heavy and cumbersome batteries fall short in satisfying the military’s needs. In search of both a lightweight and reliable alternative, the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has developed the smallest power system yet, all wrapped up in a micro-sized package.

On guard: Sentinel plants could warn of bioterror

U.S. soldiers walk down a trail in a war zone. One of them pulls out a hand-held electronic device and points it at a native plant. The readings on the device indicate the plant was exposed to nerve gas sometime in the last 48 hours, allowing the soldiers to don protective gear before they suffer a lethal dose. Although such a device does not exist, it’s not as far-fetched as it may sound. As concerns grow over the threat of bioterrorism and weapons of mass destruction, university researchers are working on an early warning system — the figurative canary in the mineshaft — that could be as unobtrusive and ubiquitous as plants in a landscape.

U.S. gov't Total Information Awareness update

The Department of Defense will establish two boards to provide oversight of the Total Information Awareness Project, the program designed to develop tools to track terrorists. The two boards, an internal oversight board and an outside advisory committee, will work with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as it continues its research. These boards will help ensure that TIA develops and disseminates its products to track terrorists in a manner consistent with U.S. constitutional law, U.S. statutory law, and American values related to privacy.

Researchers develop microbes and plants to detect explosives in soil

To detect toxic explosive residues in the soil – including unexploded artillery shells and other weapons – Florida researchers are using genetic engineering to modify microbes and plants that can be used as “biosensors.” The three-year research project, supported by a $2.3 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, will help clean up thousands of acres of land that have been used for military training in the United States and abroad.

Navy testing hybrid Marine recon vehicle

Marine recon may soon get some new wheels: a vehicle with a hybrid electric and diesel drive. Fast, quiet, and with excellent off-road performance, the Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Targeting Vehicle (RST-V)?less formally called the Shadow?last month successfully completed a 1000 mile test of its performance and reliability. It successfully sustained highway speeds over its extended drive through mountain passes, rain, snow, and rough construction zones.