Navy networks ship’s gunnery systems

An augmented reality helmet fuses information from a ship's gunnery liaison officer and weapons system into an easy-to-interpret visual format for the gunner.

A U.S Navy surface warfare officer has invented a helmet system that could help revolutionize warship gunnery operations, according to service officials.

Lt. Robert McClenning’s Unified Gunnery System concept is an augmented reality (AR) helmet that fuses information from a ship's gunnery liaison officer and weapons system into an easy-to-interpret visual format for the gunner manning a naval gun system, Navy officials said.

McClenning, a training officer aboard the guided-missile destroyer (DDG 101) USS Gridley, said the way the information sharing and authorization to fire is currently done--via decades-old radios and sound-powered phones–is hard to hear the chatter over the din of machine guns and through the required ear protection.

His concept, GunnAR, is an AR overlay placed onto helmets manufactured by industry partner, DAQRI, an AR technology company based in Los Angeles, California. SSC Pacific and DAQRI have entered a collaborative research and development agreement to further explore and develop this technology, Navy officials said.

GunnAR provides greater situational awareness for the gunner wearing the helmet and a quicker response time to ward off potential threats, McClenning said.

Heidi Buck, Battlespace Exploitation of Mixed Reality (BEMR) Lab director, cites GunnAR as an example of taking a sailor's concept, such as a unified gunnery system, from idea to prototype in a short amount of time with a small amount of funding.

"By using low-cost, commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS), virtual reality technology to aid in prototyping the concept, and low-cost COTS augmented reality technology to demonstrate the concept, we've been able to build this capability very quickly, all the while keeping the sailors endorsing the idea in the loop," Buck says.

GunnAR took won first place and $100,000 in prototyping funds at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) March 2016 Innovation Jam, which featured active duty sailors pitching their technological solutions to fleet challenges. The Unified Gunnery System was demonstrated Dec. 13 to scientists from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) BEMR Lab.

 SSC Pacific's BEMR Lab allows scientists and engineers to prototype virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, to generate ideas for low-cost solutions for fleet training and operational challenges, according to Navy officials.

"This demonstration is just the beginning," Buck said. "Trident Warrior 2017 (the Navy's fleet exercise off the Pacific Coast where sailors and marines test out new ideas and innovations in a real-world environment), will be held in June 2017, and we'll be demonstrating a more mature capability on (CG 52) USS Bunker Hill and (CVN 71) USS Theodore Roosevelt. Additionally, Waterside Security programs are interested in adapting it to shore facility security problems."

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