Lt. Anthony Eastin clips a tablet to an airman’s Bat Rack.

Battlespace Tech

BATMAN turns new technologies into practical field tools

The military is always looking for ways to get crucial information out to deployed troops, but accessing that information isn’t always easy. Even if they have capable devices and a good wireless connection, the demands of being in the field in a hostile environment can prevent them from, say, taking out a tablet to check for the latest updates.

That’s a challenge the BATMAN team in the Air Force’s Airman Systems Directorate tries to address. A couple years ago, for instance, the team tested Google Glass with pararescue jumpers, which could give them a head-mounted display that allows them to access information without having to look down from what’s happening in the field.

Another example being deployed is called the Bat-Rack, a chest-mounted devices that lets deployed airmen easily access their ruggedized tablets. That might seem a fairly simple solution to the problem, but it highlights some of the work done by BATMAN—which stands for Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided k(N)owledge. Since 2005, the 711th Human Performance Wing has worked both with commercial technologies and in-house creations on ways to biological and cognitive science and technology to improve performance.

Among other technologies the team has tested or fielded are the BATDOC, a sensor-based device that allows multiple wounded airmen to be monitored at once, and a number of wearable technologies

"Essentially, the BATMAN team is charged with finding out what the operators need and what is available out there to make them lighter, smarter and deadlier," Lt. Anthony Eastin, a behavioral scientist, said in an Air Force Research Laboratory release. "Our goal is to find commercial off-the-shelf technologies, test them, give it to the operators and find out if that's good enough. Or we create new technologies that haven't been developed yet."

In fact, it was Eastin, facing an upcoming deployment, who initiated the Bat Rack, which was one of those technologies that hadn’t been developed yet. Special operators about to be deployed had just been issued tablet but needed a way to mount them on themselves. Often in the past, airmen looking to accommodate new technologies would to to improvise on their own, going to Best Buy or radio shack, Estin said. When Estin arrived at the deployment, he saw plenty of operators using the Bat Rack.

Another advantage of his deployment was having one of the BATMAN team on site to gauge how the devices were working—something the team wants to do with other technologies that are new to the field.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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