Impact, Benefits, and Versatility Of Soldier-Worn Power Managers

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In the modern battlefield, technology must fight for space. Soldiers today are sensor platforms—part of a mobile network of users and platforms. Therefore, they are also increasingly prolific consumers of electrical energy. Although devices have become more efficient, soldiers are now required to account for a greater number of devices and components as well as the power sources necessary to use them across long distances and for extended durations. The burden is multifaceted: physically taxing, cognitively demanding, and logistically challenging. During intense missions every ounce of energy—both physical and electrical—is a vital resource.

Galvion’s Nerv Centr® family of power management solutions offer distinct, measurable, and immediate benefits for modern warfighters. The Nerv Centr® SoloPack™ energy module is a super high density unit that is the same size and weight as a 30 round magazine, and can provide enough energy for a 12-hour mission. The Nerv Centr® SharePack® is a soldier-worn energy hub that provides flexible power management by storing, harvesting, combining, sharing, and delivering power to multiple devices simultaneously. The Nerv Centr® Squad Power Manager™ (SPM-622) and Nerv Centr® Individual Power Manager™ (IPM) are capable of integrating with over 200 types of batteries and electronic devices, supporting a wide range of missions and shifting user demands—scavenging from any available source, anywhere in the world, and automatically converting and using that power. And, the intelligent Nerv Centr® Adaptive Battery Charger™ system can draw power from virtually any source, and can charge different types of batteries simultaneously—no special programming or reformatting required.

Discover some of the ways that Nerv Centr power solutions allow solders to take control of their power.

WEIGHT REDUCTION

Along with water and ammunition, power contributes significantly to the physical burden. Ruggedized, power-thirsty mobile devices and electronics are indispensable in modern combat, letting dismounted troops see beyond their field of vision—using GPS, smartphones, tablets, and even helmet-mounted screens—and enhance command and control of the surrounding environment. Even with advances in technology, making body armor, helmets, optics, mobile devices, and armaments faster and lighter, the fact remains: the most significant limit for a soldiers is how much they can carry. Paradoxically, as each component gets upgraded and streamlined, more components are added—more protective equipment, more artillery, more interconnected devices.

Even with concerted efforts to reduce the burden, the average carriage weight of a U.S. soldier has continued to trend upward. Today the average U.S. soldier carries at least 60 pounds of gear, with extended patrol personnel often carrying double that weight. Specialized warfighters, such as automatic riflemen, combat medics, and SOF units, can see higher totals still.

Galvion’s Nerv Centr products reduce the number of needed batteries and cables, increasing the efficiency of a warfighter’s electronics. This is not just about relieving back pain: by reducing weight, we give the soldier an edge, in speed of movement and reaction time, as well as reduction of resupply convoys. Reducing the weight burden can simplify operations and boost situational awareness, both of which can save lives.

AUSTERE ENVIRONMENTS

An austere environment is one devoid of infrastructure—no power grid, no hospital, rough terrain. Austere and remote environments pose tremendous logistical challenges for troops on the ground. Soldiers engaged in long-haul operations off the grid are by and large forced to rely on the resources they carry. Whatever they bring with them—water, equipment, devices, power—needs to be rationed and managed with accuracy and precision. Plus, the excessive weight in batteries, water, and armor needed for an extended mission results in a less mobile, less effective force—which puts a ceiling on the allotted reserves and gear at the outset. In this vein, reducing weight and increasing the ease of power management isn’t just about improving the comfort and health of soldiers; it’s about enhanced mobility and mission flexibility—and thus survivability.

Galvion’s answer is a family of products that together enable users to treat power as a combat supply that can be found, harvested, stored, and used flexibly at the very lowest level. Soldiers trained and experienced in managing ammunition and water at the individual or squad level now can do the same with power. This energy efficiency at the sub-unit level not only ensures power is available when it is needed on a mission; it also has major impact on the energy consumption at higher formations, resulting in a much-reduced logistics tail and lower costs.

The Nerv Centr Squad Power Manager, Nerv Center Individual Power Manager, and Nerv Centr Adaptive Battery Charger provide wide-ranging logistical support for all possible power needs dismounted troops might encounter, closing the power gap and extending reserves far beyond traditional field energy support. Additionally, the Nerv Centr SoloPack is the same size and weight as a 30 round magazine, and can provide enough energy for a 12-hour mission for a high tech user.

UNIVERSAL POWER

A soldier carries most of his power the same way a civilian does: batteries. But instead of a single smart phone battery, the standard networked soldier carries far more. How many? In Operation Enduring Freedom, a networked rifleman carried 16 pounds of batteries during a typical 72 hour mission—a total of 70 batteries across seven different varieties. Just like the batteries in a phone and a watch, each one of these devices uses a different size and shape battery—some specialized, like PRC radio batteries, some generic, like AA and AAA batteries. Away from base and out in the field, the soldier doesn’t have many lightweight, portable options for generating power. Using standard power equipment and batteries, if a soldier did come across an energy source in an austere environment, there would be no way to tap into it, or harvest the dormant energy for later use. Not only do they need to carry the electronics’ batteries, but also backups for each device, as a failsafe. A challenge that accentuates each of these issues is the fact that energy is invisible: You can’t look at a battery and figure out if it’s full or empty. How can you manage and maximize your power reserves while simplifying the power equation?

This is the question Galvion set out to solve. The Nerv Centr suite of power solutions is the result, offering a universal power hub to tackle each energy challenge a dismounted soldier can face in the field. A “universal power” source provides a centralized system that can tap into any available power source, directly convert it to suit your devices, and connect with and power all your electronic systems—all from one lightweight, soldier-worn power manager. Our goals have been simple: make getting power to the needed devices simple. Individually, the Nerv Centr SharePack, Nerv Centr SoloPack, Nerv Centr Squad Power Manager, Nerv Centr Individual Power and Nerv Centr Adaptive Battery Charger all provide these benefits; in tandem, they cover every conceivable power gap that dismounted troops can face over long-term, intensive missions. When worn on the soldier, these devices can provide a flexible way to deliver power; when ground-mounted, they can be combined to power extreme power needs.

LONG RANGE MOVEMENT

Few things are prized by military tacticians more than speed and maneuverability. Facilitating these qualities boosts mission productivity and survivability. These operational considerations prove especially crucial when plotting long range movement (LRM) operations, especially for special operators, where a hurried pace has to be sustained for long durations and flexibility has to be preserved to respond to an exponential increase in threats and variables. Planning and rationing power reserves poses an especially acute challenge when preparing for, and conducting, LRM missions.

The deeper troops get into an LRM mission, the harder it gets to maintain all the vital equipment that’s being hauled—even as this equipment becomes more and more crucial to mission success. This is where Galvion’s solutions come in. Nerv Centr systems deliver more reliable power management and allow users to harvest and store energy from any source along the way. It provides soldiers operating in far flung areas more sustained power, more accurate management of reserves, and the flexibility to draw power from any available source that is made available. Plus, Nerv Centr solutions are designed to be extremely adaptable, compatible with a wide range of equipment, thus operating as a central power hub. Users can alternate between different operational electronic and mobile devices, working from a single source the whole way. This lessens the weight burden of power management devices on LRM maneuvers and allows for more equipment options when planning and conducting long-term missions, while enhancing the reliability and lifespan of important operational devices.

MILITARY VEHICLES

Mobile military operations rely heavily on a variety of support vehicles to move troops and equipment over long distances quickly. These vehicles often operate as activity centers, makeshift hubs for congregating equipment and organizing on-the-fly networks. In many cases, these vehicles comprise a localized grid, an island of power and electrical output from which all devices can draw energy. While all standard military vehicles are built with a 24-volt charging system, and designed to be outfitted with a military command-and-control computer, satellite receivers, radios, and GPS, many of the supplementary vehicles used by mobile troops do not have all these built-in amenities. They are ruggedized for military use in harsh environments and unforgiving terrain, but they are also stripped down and simplified to make them more reliable and maneuverable. A standard special operations LRM, usually an Operational Detachment – Alpha (ODA), would use either 12 all-terrain vehicles or four side-by-side vehicles, or a combination of both. These are commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) vehicles that use the standard civilian 12-volt charging systems and are not designed to meet military power demands. Normally, units solve the power problem by modifying their electrical systems ad hoc. This leads to three major issues: damaging systems due to power loads, not enough voltage to power systems (especially comms or medical system suites), and at the same time violating the warranty on these vehicles, which becomes an issue with the supplier. Nerv Centr power managers have the ability to draw from multiple power sources and automatically balance power supply with demand, hooking to booth the LTATV’s OEM battery and a standard BB2590 battery. Nerv Centr solutions are ideal for scaling power demands and turning standard military vehicles into reliable and sustainable power centers far from civilization.

THE RISE OF UNMANNED SYSTEMS

Looking to the future of warfare, one aspect of the battlefront that has begun to take shape, and will undoubtedly accelerate over the next decade, is the use of robots and autonomous vehicles. This trend serves an obvious practical purpose, putting cold machinery in the line of fire, and in the most dangerous scenarios, instead of soldiers. But, this new equipment needs reliable power just like any other machine. Additionally, the more adept and proficient these autonomous machines become, the more they will be relied upon—expanding from niche fields like EOD robots and Hellfire missile strikes to systems employed by and alongside troops on the ground. Therefore, the need for sustainable, reliable, lightweight, and flexible power will become ever more crucial. Currently available unmanned systems from both the defense and commercial industry are already being tested and rapidly fielded by warfighters. As unmanned systems become more and more integrated on the squad level, Galvion’s solutions will keep pace. Our current Nerv Centr line provides power support for all types of units, as well as the means to harvest and store power reserves to be used by autonomous systems. Plus, Galvion has made great strides in platform power developments, developing lightweight and scalable solutions suited for lightweight unmanned units and large-scale manned vehicles alike, and points in between.