Defense Tech in your everyday life
Technology developed in the defense and security space has done wonders for making modern life easier, while also helping to advance civilization with new ways of thinking. Some of the bigger (and smaller) things that we take for granted have helped to shape how we live our lives today, by making things faster, smaller, and easier to get.
From finding planes to cooking food
The development of radars in the 1930s and 1940s was a game-changer in World War 2 for helping to save lives, as military coordinators could alert cities to incoming bomber raids and make sure people were in shelters. As scientists in the UK worked to find ways to improve aircraft detection technologies, they accidentally helped to uncover a way to make cooking food faster.
The UK exchanged the technology with the US for industrial and financial assistance during the war, with Raytheon being granted a license to produce the components for the US.
In 1945, a Raytheon engineer working with a radar noticed that the microwaves from the system had melted his chocolate bar. In putting a small system into a metal box, the engineers were able to cook popcorn, leading to the creation of the microwave oven in October 1945. Raytheon’s first commercial microwave ovens were produced in 1947 as the “Radarange” and helped pave the way to the development of better and cheaper systems that are found in every kitchen today.
So now when you cook up that leftover lasagna, remember that the technology behind it came from a military need to find enemy aircraft!
Aircraft spare parts helping pizza delivery
Easy mobility for infantry forces is an area that military planners have sought to improve for centuries. While horses will get your troops there faster, they need to be fed and cared for. Trucks break down and get easily bogged when going off-road. One solution came with the invention of the bicycle which led to the creation of bicycle infantry in armies in Europe and beyond from the end of the 19th century.
By World War 2, motorcycles had become popular, and the military found ways to use small portable versions. During operations in Italy, US paratroopers used specially designed lightweight Cushman motorcycles to get around destroyed bridges and roads. After the war was over, Italian designers were looking for new ways to help people get around quickly and easily, while not having to spend too much money on expensive petrol.
Drawing on their experience with military aircraft and looking at vehicles like the Cushman, designers thought about how to use their experience with military equipment to help. Seizing on leftover starter motors for military aeroengines, as well as the small tires from nose and tailwheels, they came up with scooters like the Piaggio Vespa and the Lambretta.
The popularity of scooters is still strong today and helps with making sure that Uber Eats and others get your takeaway to your door while it’s still piping hot, and not stuck in a traffic jam.
Airborne security analysis to land management
As countries have sought to improve their security, they have turned to the skies to help understand and appreciate the threats they face. One answer was the development of high-altitude surveillance aircraft. These aircraft have been designed to operate at altitudes higher than air defenses can reach, and with cameras and sensors powerful enough that the intelligence analysts could understand what was going on.
The development of such platforms is not without their own political, financial, and operational challenges. For example, the Lockheed Martin U-2 has required a lot of political support from allies, a great deal of secrecy, and specialized equipment over the course of its operational history that has been very expensive to develop, deploy, and operate.
As a result, the US and other countries have turned increasingly to space systems and began to develop satellite systems that could operate quietly, more economically through a longer lifespan, and deliver a similar capability to those of a high-altitude aircraft. As technology developed, radar imaging satellites were launched to see through clouds, and optical cameras were improved with digital transmission capabilities and better resolution.
Today, much of that technology is available for use by anyone with a smartphone or a computer. People can now access satellite imagery and deploy it for tracking a variety of topics, ranging from deforestation to monitoring pollution in remote areas. Town planners and utility managers can understand the requirements of populations, and how best to place services that can include transport hubs, health care facilities, and electricity infrastructure.
Airborne sensing technology has also been a key tool in dealing with the global spread of the red palm weevil, which targets date and ornamental palm trees. In Saudi Arabia, experiments using space-based and airborne sensor systems to track the spread of the weevils have been an extra tool alongside land-based acoustic sensors and sniffer dogs. Using these systems has helped to map and track their spread and reduce the damage of the insects, while also being a non-destructive and non-intrusive method.
As the military creates requirements and adapts to operational challenges, the technological outputs can be later used for a wide range of commercial and civilian products that can help to build, create, and protect everyone. The ability of government and commercial organisations to collaborate also helps to leverage innovation from both sides. Investments in advanced military technologies today will yield undreamable technologies tomorrow, and it is through these commitments that we can begin our journey to the future.