If you were to make an analogy between a radar and the human body, the antenna on the radar would be the eyes – it sees what the radar detects. There are many different antenna types that exist today and these technologies are continually growing and becoming more complex. The technologies range from the dipole antenna (2 wires), to patch antennas and, most recently, metamaterial antennas that could, in the far future, provide a method for cloaking. Cloaking, in the context of metamaterial cloaking and electromagnetic (EM) radiation, is when the EM field propagates around the object with the metamaterial properties, or in other words it makes the object seem invisible. Aren’t antennas cool?
In the most heavy-duty industry of them all—the military—saving lives reigns supreme and the US Army is currently working on integrating existing advanced technologies in order to enhance the safety of the modern soldier.
Improving military fleet capabilities is an ongoing operational priority for the U.S. Army. To protect soldiers and maximize their impact, the Army is making progressive strides toward the introduction of autonomous systems in tactical vehicles in an effort to remove the risk faced by soldiers in extremely hazardous and volatile missions.
Every piece of heavy-duty equipment is different. Designed for specific, and usually logistically complicated tasks, no one-size-fits-all safety package works for every equipment type. By accounting for all of the unique variables associated with a wide range of heavy equipment, object detection systems can fill in the gaps and blind spots in safety practices over a wide range of industries. By integrating radar with other active and passive technologies, the ultimate collision mitigation safety solution comes into focus.
How does it work? Preco’s Tom Loutzenheiser recently gave a forward-thinking explanation to that question in the Idaho Business Review:
“If you look at any of the autonomous vehicles, whether cars or mining trucks, they all have lots of different sensors. There’s this concept called sensor fusion, where you work together to make a smarter vehicle. The human analogy is you have a sense of touch, a sense of smell, eyesight and ears, they all contribute to you being a safe navigator of the world. There’s the same analogy in autonomy. There are multiple sensors coming into play.”
They say never cry wolf. But what happens when there is actually a wolf? Safety technology is hitting the heavy-duty vehicle industry in spades. The ability to protect blind spots using object detection technology—no matter the working or weather conditions—is a real lifesaver for heavy-duty vehicles in any environment.
Now, when an alarm goes off that indicates something is in the way, it’s a clear call to action. Or rather, non-action. It’s a signal to stop, and do a safety check. But what if the radar’s field of view is too wide or too long—and the alert goes off too often—for relatively insignificant objects? The never cry wolf effect will set in, and that can lead to complacency.
They never take shift breaks. They do the dirty work. They face endless, brutal hazards. Driverless vehicles are on the scene in mining operations around the world and, in an industry that’s remained largely unchanged for the past 30 years, the big question looms, “How will this affect us?” Followed by the immediate concern, “Is it safe?”
First though, how do autonomous vehicles actually work? Under the hood of driverless heavy-duty fleets, you’ll find a combination of sensors, typically using radar and GPS to navigate. The GPS plots the course and mission of the vehicle. For mining operations, unmanned equipment typically moves around a pre-defined course—streamlining rigorous, tedious mining tasks like dumping and loading.
A technological development is sometimes a matter of life and death. That’s especially true of radar. One of the first practical uses of radar technology—using reflected radio waves to detect the range, angle, or velocity of objects—took off in the early 20th century as a simple device to help ships avoid collisions in fog. However, it wasn’t until the pressure cooker of the WWII era that entire countries began taking radar seriously as a matter of national security—secretly investing heavily in the development of it—that the technology really took off in spades.