Technology in sport has been at the subject of much debate lately for all the wrong reasons it would seem, but with all the questions over its speed and reliability overshadowing its effectiveness in the likes of Cricket and Tennis, you may be forgiven for neglecting the incredible standard of technology used in Formula 1. The technology is so great in fact that it is set to be adapted and adopted by the British forces serving in Afghanistan.
The Formula 1 tech in question is the microchip inserted into all the cars that feeds back live information on all components of the car to the engineers, providing real time updates on damage and wear on the tyres, for example, so they can make snap decisions on the course of action the likes of which you see during the F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Whilst the technology may be underrated in terms of importance in the sport by fans and pundits alike, the British Forces took a break from all the fighting and animosity out there to be excited about the technology being implemented into vehicles such as the Jackals, Ridgebacks, Mastiffs and Panthers.
The principle behind the military adaptation of the technology is almost identical to the Formula 1 implementation, in that it gives real time feedback of damage to the vehicles, to the medics so they can quickly analyse what damage and injuries their may be. To me it sounds priceless in terms of reacting as efficiently and accurately as possible.
Trooper Ollie Parsons, a Jackal driver from A Squadron the Household Cavalry Regiment commented, “It’s definitely a good idea. Anything that helps make the vehicle better to use would be welcomed by the rest of the guys. It would enable us, if we did suffer an improvised explosive device (IED) blast, to know what’s wrong with the vehicle straight away so we can either try and fix it or know we’re still good to carry on. A bullet went through my jackal and knocked out my brakes. I didn’t know at the time and ended up losing control. If I’d have had this new technology then I would have been able to handle the situation a lot better.”
Tim Routsis, CEO of Cosworth Engines, who are carrying out the research also had his say, stating “Our job is to try and see if we can make vehicles survive IEDs better, what we have to do is measure what happens to a vehicle when it gets hit and from that work out how to make it more survivable.”
At this stage, there is no proof that the technology can be properly installed into said vehicles, but the research is being carried out by the Ministry of Defence, having signed a £200,000 contract lasting a couple of months committing them to testing the concept. It is hoped that if successful, the engineers will begin developing and implementing the technology, but it will be at least a year before the vehicles with the new tech on board will be deployed.
Wing Commander Jim Pennycook, a military advisor on defence technology said, “It works very much like the black box in an aircraft, in that it constantly collects data about the vehicle that can be analysed. We’re working with Cosworth to try and give the commander in the vehicle an instant assessment of the damage that has occurred if it’s been hit by an IED. The aim is to investigate if we can get the same data transmitted back to base for the operational control there to decide whether there are any casualties and what sort of casualties they might be. That then gives the medical team on base advance warning to cope with those casualties.”
What comes as the biggest surprise to me is that such technology has not been readily available to military vehicles already. Should it be allowed that an ultimately insignificant sport such as Formula 1 is allowed to technologically advance so easily, whilst critical tech is not available in a literally life and death situation by the military?
And politically speaking, with David Cameron having won the general election and speaking of cuts, cuts and more spending cuts, whilst planning to withdraw by 2014, is this huge investment worthwhile? Whilst the initial R&D contract is only £200k, the implementation of the tech will far exceed that amount.