Top 5 emerging engineering innovations in the defence industry, according to expert

29 November 2022

Karem Akoul, Project Manager at custom military equipment case manufacturers CP Cases, pinpoints the latest military advancements and the impact they will have.

Defence engineering focuses on the development, design, construction and repair of technology, tools and vehicles used during military conflict. As a result, there is high demand for innovation in the industry: to push boundaries and improve processes. Industry innovations help to improve safety, situational awareness and threat identification, allowing military personnel to make informed military decisions.

As defence becomes more critical by the day, now is the time to take advantage of these innovations.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

AI mimics human intelligence to perform tasks and continuously improve efficiency based on the information collected. The defence industry aims to become ‘AI ready’ in order to scale and gain an advantage.

AI can reduce soldier casualties due to equipment safety management and empowering autonomous weapon systems. Defence engineers can also test new military product iterations and benefit from predictive maintenance for military assets.

AI is currently being used to produce vehicles with automated situational awareness which will enable it to detect, classify and estimate current threats. This allows tactical teams to navigate obstacles in the field.

Machine learning is another AI discipline being put to good use by the military sector. By accessing data for themselves, AI systems can learn and improve their understanding. In the military, one application of this is finite element analysis, which models the behaviour of a product or component under certain conditions, without the need for lots of physical prototypes. Computational fluid dynamics is a similar technique and both can be used to produce more reliable military equipment in shorter timeframes and at a lower cost.

Robotics & autonomous systems (RAS)

RAS can achieve a set of predetermined goals in a changing environment. For example, a drone can gather information about an area without human intervention, reporting back on any potential dangers.

These systems protect forces, enhance situational awareness, reduce soldiers’ physical and cognitive fatigue and facilitate movement in challenging terrains. 

RAS has helped develop drones and unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which both provide tactical advantages and enable forces to make informed military decisions from afar.

Cyber defence

Military information systems are often the target of cyber warfare, leading to the loss and compromise of information. To combat this, cyber defence provides tools and services to protect systems and reduce harm from these attacks.

Having a cyber defence system in place is vital for military systems that are vulnerable to cyber attacks to ensure classified information and military systems remain secure. Major areas of focus include nuclear security and connected military equipment security.

Increasingly, electromagnetic shielding is being used to block all outgoing and incoming wireless radiofrequency signals from and to devices, denying access to sensitive military data. Shielded cases can protect everything from computer systems to drone controllers.

Cybersecurity, AI, and automation are all used to detect and end potential threats. Endpoint detection & response (EDR) software easily integrates with existing cybersecurity systems and assists with the supervision, automatic detection, investigation and neutralisation of cyber threats.

Internet of military things (IoMT)

The internet of things is a system of interrelated computing devices, objects, people and mechanical and digital machines. This can be applied to defence by connecting soldiers, tanks, ships, drones, planes, and operating bases in a cohesive network. 

IoMT enhances perception, situational awareness and response time as well as strengthening the control structure.

With IoMT, a variety of static and dynamic biometric data can be collected by devices embedded in equipment and worn by soldiers for human and machine analysis. This aids forces with comprehensive intelligence for tracking threats, situational awareness and mapping target areas.

Additive and subtractive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing utilises 3D printing to produce components and parts that use much less material than traditional methods. Often, 3D scanning complex parts first can help to achieve a higher level of precision, by analysing every contour of a product. When novel material combinations for ammunition, armour, and self-heating military clothing are being produced, accuracy is crucial.

Custom parts can be created from nearly any location using stronger and lighter designs that consume fewer materials. This reduces logistical burdens, production costs and enables new design engineering possibilities. Additive manufacturing also increases worker safety and factory productivity.

Subtractive manufacturing, on the other hand, begins with more material and takes waste material away to form a product. This is where computer numerical controlled (CNC) machining can make the process much more precise and less wasteful.

The military defence landscape is constantly changing, which calls for more innovations to keep up with the exponential pace of new technology. Any engineering innovations that can improve security, safety and efficiency need to be adopted by the defence industry. This is why the above five emerging innovations are only going to improve with time and application.

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