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WASHINGTON – U.S. Naval Research Laboratory researchers have developed IPOWER, a software application that simulates energy use, storage, harvesting, and sharing in deployed Army and Marine Corps units to improve energy-informed decision-making.
“Efforts to improve the capability of dismounted soldiers and Marines over the past two decades have been successful, but at the cost of greater energy consumption, weight, and complexity,” said Richard Stroman, a NRL mechanical engineer. “Consequently, there is now a pressing need for energy analysis tools such as IPOWER to help acquisitions officers, doctrine developers, logisticians, and warfighters make conscious energy-saving decisions.”
Continued capability improvements will only be feasible with a clear understanding of the energy options and tradeoffs involved. The complexity of modern warfighter systems has made traditional energy analysis techniques, including gross-averages and environmental assumptions, inadequate and less reliable, Stroman added.
“IPOWER gives users a flexible tool for simulating a wide variety of missions, equipment, unit organizations, and energy management strategies in realistic environments,” Stroman said. “This tool uses sophisticated equipment models and system-level energy analysis, but does so with a simple and easy-to-use interface so users can quickly and easily analyze complex scenarios to understand how equipment, tactics, and the environment influence energy on the battlefield.”
Essentially, the tool uses a climate database to estimate the likely environment, then uses equipment models and mission timelines to compute power flows in the unit. The power flows are used to generate energy metrics, such as the total energy consumed, number of batteries used, when batteries are swapped, and fuel consumed. Users can deep-dive and see details such as battery state of charge or harvested solar power as functions of mission time. Results are presented as interactive plots, charts, and other graphics.
Users interact with IPOWER through a web browser, which can be deployed locally on a stand-alone computer, or on a server with multiple users logging in over a network. Inputs are recognizable to anyone working with dismounted warfighters.
Further evidence of IPOWER versatility is found in the software structure. The analysis tool can run natively on Windows and Linux operating systems, but is most often distributed as a Docker image. IPOWER can be shared with Department of Defense (DOD) organizations interested in collaboration or adding an energy analysis capability to their applications.
“IPOWER is packaged to run inside software called Docker, which is very common in the software world, particularly in Cloud environments,” Stroman said. “Distributing IPOWER this way simplifies installation and subsequent upgrades, and facilitates an eventual move into a Cloud environment.”
IPOWER also has a well-documented Application Programming Interface (API) to support integration with other applications and facilitates its use for energy simulation tasks unrelated to dismounted warfighters. An API enables software engineers to “plug” one software application into another to work together.
“A major advantage of IPOWER is users are free to create new equipment and mission activities to tailor the analysis to their needs,” Stroman said. “Users can even create equipment and activities that do not yet exist to explore ‘what if’ scenarios. The results can then guide research and development and acquisition decisions.”
IPOWER saves data to a local database. Soon, users will be able to share their custom equipment and missions with an export/import feature.
All equipment in IPOWER is part of a “system.” Simulations range from a single, individually assigned system to multiple shared systems in a military unit. IPOWER affords its users the capability to configure each warfighter with different systems or apply a standard configuration to multiple warfighters and squads to navigate simulations. The NRL analysis tool applies sophisticated energy management logic to determine when batteries are charged, discharged, and shared among members of the unit.
“Our current goal is to enable quantitative energy-informed decisions about the systems carried by dismounted warfighters – what equipment to carry, how to use it, and what specifications to push for in future equipment,” Stroman said. “The central idea is that informed decisions can give warfighters access to advanced capabilities without the excessive energy burdens they endure today. Ultimately, we would like to expand IPOWER to address a broader set of DoD energy challenges.”
IPOWER is sponsored by U.S. Army Program Managers Close Combat Squad (PM-CCS) and Infantry Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) Expeditionary Energy Office (E2O), and USMC Systems Command. The Army is currently using IPOWER to answer power and energy questions for future dismounted soldiers, and the USMC is using IPOWER to develop next-generation Expeditionary power concepts. The NRL Alternative Energy section has used the tool to analyze USMC Special Operations Command power and energy needs.
The tool is not currently used to plan or manage real-world missions; however, NRL is exploring ways to use it for mission planning in conjunction with Windows Tactical Assault Kit, also known as WinTAK, software used by ground troops to plan and execute missions.
The NRL Alternative Energy Section develops new and improved power and energy sources and systems for the Navy, Marine Corps, DoD, and Intelligence Community (IC). A growing area has been energy-related simulation and optimization tools such as IPOWER. The group explores topics ranging from energy harvesting and storage to large-scale power production and vehicle powertrains. Emphasis is on electrochemical devices such as fuel cells and batteries, and related systems such as hydrogen fuel storage, with underpinnings in materials science. The new power/energy sources are designed for sensors, communication devices and vehicles in collaboration with other NRL divisions. Group members also serve as advisors on energy issues related to the Navy, USMC, DoD, and IC.
IPOWER is available for license to companies with a commercial interest in addition to collaborative partnership opportunities. For additional information, contact the NRL Office of Technology Transfer at email@example.com.
About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
NRL is a scientific and engineering command dedicated to research that drives innovative advances for the Navy and Marine Corps from the seafloor to space and in the information domain. NRL headquarters is located in Washington, D.C., with major field sites in Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, Key West, Florida, and Monterey, California, and employs approximately 2,500 civilian scientists, engineers and support personnel.
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