Sailors’ New Uniforms Could Electronically Track Them All Over Ship
And you can 3-D print them, too
Perhaps that’s one reason why Navy researchers are looking for a different kind of uniform. Digital clothing that wirelessly connects wearers with their ships.
Oh—and they also want a uniform that you can dash off on a 3-D printer.
You can find details in two Navy research projects. The first project calls for smart uniforms with embedded wireless technology.
The problem with current naval uniforms is that they aren’t designed for the highly automated vessels that are all the rage. The Littoral Combat Ship, for example, has video game-like controls so that 75 or so sailors can do the work of 250.
So the Navy is looking for uniforms that will continuously link sailors to their ships. These uniforms should “wirelessly communicate the sailor’s position and track movement, as well as to monitor and relay the human state of health important for situations such as damage control events,” according to the sailing branch.
The concept sounds similar to smart clothing already reaching the civilian market. Japanese companies have developed smart cloth with embedded nanosensors that monitor the wearer’s health.
But the Navy also wants fabric that’s rugged enough for military use. Commercial smart clothing “may not be able to withstand the rigors of daily wear or laundering expected from uniforms.”
The Navy’s main focus seems to be on uniforms that will allow commanders and rescue parties to track the location and health of sailors, a feature that would be quite handy amid the fire, smoke and confusion of combat damage or a major accident.
And while the proposal doesn’t specifically mention a crew remotely operating the ship through transmitters in their clothing, the wireless connection between the cloth and the ship’s systems would seem to make that possible.
Given such high-tech uniforms, it seems only appropriate that they should come from a 3-D printer. Which happens to be the subject of another Navy research project—one that aims to produce “complete garments/ensembles for military applications” on the special printers. Printed clothing would coveralls, socks, trousers and other items.
One advantage of printed clothing is that you can configure and produce it as needed. On the other hand, life on a ship where the computers—and your skipper—know your every move might be a bit oppressive. Pity the poor sailor sneaking off for a smoke.