With its enormous research budget and huge purchasing power, the military has been responsible for the creation or success of many amazing technologies that we use in everyday life. Things as high-tech as GPS and the Internet, and as low-tech and commonplace as safety razors and menstrual pads (Benjamin Franklin’s invention to save soldiers from buckshot wounds); many products that we know and love simply could not have gotten off the ground without the good old-fashioned government contract. Many more would never have been commercial successes if soldiers didn’t fall in love with them in the field.
The typical military to civilian path for technology starts with a company that has a great idea for a product that solves a tactical problem. Take, for example, the CamelBak hydration systems – sort of a soft backpack canteen. The military provides the funding for research and development and the personnel for field testing and in return they get the technology they need.
Something like CamelBak is so innocuous and obviously useful that it could be sold to the general public immediately. Other tech is too secret or dangerous to make it into the civilian sector immediately but, just like GPS trackers, they eventually do. Usually with a pit stop in the police arsenal. When they finally make it to the civilian sector, you can be sure they’ll be a big hit – after all, we know how they’ll perform and exactly who to sell them to!
Below is a list of five military technologies that are on the threshold of becoming commercial products. Finding the opportunity to buy stock in any of the companies that can bring these to market could be a boon for any forward thinking investor. Or, maybe, you are just excited to see what the future holds. Each of these products can change the world in interesting ways. Read on to learn how.
HUD means Heads Up Display, that cool floating glowing readout of information that you see fighter pilots gazing through in movies. HUD tech isn’t all that futuristic by today’s standards. Most people’s cell phones are higher technology than a HUD, which can display such things as weather, speed, directions, and fuel status. And the people at Kickstarter-funded startup Nuviz noticed… and did something about it.
The first generation of civilian HUDs have just started to appear, and Nuviz has taken on the motorcycle market. At the moment a Nuviz HUD to mount to your own helmet will cost you about $500. For motorcycle riders, that’s five hundred well-spent, but even if it’s successful, it seems unlikely that they’ll have cornered the market on an idea that’s only going to keep heating up.
A UAV is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. An MUAV is a miniature UAV. Primarily used for reconnaissance and communication, MUAVs are impressive little machines that can be any size small enough to be man portable. MUAVs come in a variety of shapes and with a laundry list of functions, none of which beat my favorite startup of all time: Tacocopter.
Tacocopter, tragically just an internet hoax, got everyone’s hopes up that one day when regulatory restrictions on auto-navigating, GPS driven drones were lifted they would be delivering tacos to people in San Francisco via quadrotor drones. While tacocopter was just a hoax, the incredible attention it gained, and the disappoint at the revelation of its fantasy status, shows just how much people are itching for automated delivery systems.
Delivering food via the air is hardly the pinnacle of MUAV potential, however. There are quadrocopters that can gracefully swoop and pick up items with an eagle-like claw. Those can work orchards, harvesting fruit or eliminating rodents. There are MUAVs that could be used for crop dusting, just like in the film Looper. The future is coming quickly.
Does all this sound fanciful and unrealistic? In Japan, drones are already popular for crop dusting, and when you look at the carbon footprint of trucks vs. miniature helicopters for individual package delivery, there is no contest whatsoever.
Simunitions are ultra-realistic, non-harmful firearms rounds that, instead of leaving a hole in their target, leave a little clay smudge and a slightly painful reminder that being on the wrong end of the cross hairs is a bad idea. But Simunitions are not paintballs.
Simunitions are to paintballs as e-cigarettes are to candy cigarette. Simunition bullets are powered by a propellent just like real bullets. They fit into real guns. They function just like real shells and have similar ballistic properties. That means that while laser-tag systems shoot in straight lines and paintball guns have limited range and low velocity, a Simunition shot arcs and falls just like a real bullet. All you need to make sure you’re safe is eye protection and you can simulate real combat in a way paintball enthusiasts literally dream of.
Simunitions are currently only available to military and law enforcement personnel, but if someone were able to change that situation, it seems quite likely that a good chunk of the first person video game crowd would drop their controllers and rush out to the firing range. Sure, maybe parents would object at first – until they realized their kids were getting sunshine and exercise for the first time in years.
2. MAGS Rubbish Recycler
What can take one hundred pounds of organic garbage and turn it into five pounds of charred solid waste in two hours without fire and create gasseous fuel and heat in the process? The answer is the Navy’s Micro Auto Gasification System, a sort of trash oven that heats anything from cardboard to cheese to 750 degrees and captures the byproducts. Those byproducts are heat that can warm a barracks, gas that can be used as fuel, and charred crud that can be thrown away in much less landfill than its original ingredients.
The commercial appeal in the civilian market for this type of tech is undeniable. Nobody likes paying their heat bill, but current options are either go solar or install a generator. Next to the sun, the next-most ubiquitous fuel source Americans have is the trash they produce themselves. Individual home MAGs tech may not replace the energy company any time soon, but reaping our landfills for fuel is one elegant solution to both the non-renewable energy crisis and the horrific amount of trash we throw out every day. Cheap, recycled fuel people can feel good about using? Ca-ching!
1. Honeycomb Tire
Resilient Technologies out of Wausau, Wisconsin came up with a new design for an old concept – the airless tire. Theirs looks like it was made from cross sections of rubber honeycomb. The idea is that the tire’s unique geometry supports the vehicle just like the air in a regular tire. Unlike a regular tire, since there is no air cushion in Resilient’s tire, there is exactly zero chance of a blowout. In order to flatten this tire to the point where it’s nonoperational you’d have to shred a great deal of rubber. That may be a real possibility on the mean streets of Afghanistan, but there are far few IEDs in Detroit.
For a tire that can shrug off small explosions and gunshots, potholes and torn asphalt should pose no threat whatsoever. Should this tire come to market it would be a rout. Off road drivers and residents of cities with poor road conditions would consider them nearly mandatory.