DRS Scorpion H2|
A rugged Android-based PDA design to cost-effectively provide soldiers with military-grade state-of-the-art and future-proof mobile technology
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
The military has different requirements for a small mobile communications and computing device. In an attempt to address some of these requirements, DRS Technologies introduced the Scorpion H2 handheld computer in February 2012 at the US Army Winter Symposium and Exhibition. More specifically, DRS created the H2 as their contender for a US Army Nett Warrior and Joint Battle Command handheld.
What does all that mean? Nett Warrior, which used to be known as the Ground Soldier System, describers technology designed to provide soliders situational awareness and information sharing. The Joint Battle Command project explores evolving technology solutions and making them available in the field. The military's quest, in essence, is in finding the best PDA solution that fulfills all the special requirements of ruggedness, functionality, security, and also fits into overall military field technology. The challenge of taking advantage of the blindingly quick advance of consumer technology while taking into account the much longer lifecycles of military technology means an often elusive balance of using cost-efficient COTS (consumer off the shelf) technology while also providing obsolecence-proof, upgradeable solution. Not an easy task.
What did DRS come up with? A ruggedized Android-handheld with a 4.5-inch multi-touch display that's barely larger than some of today's smartphones. One that includes consumer technology such as a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 processor, an 8-megapixel integrated camera that can record 1080p HD video, 16GB onboard storage and a micro-SD card slot, and a battery good enough for at least 8 hours of typical operation in the field. There's also standard consumer wireless communications fare, such as Bluetooth 3.0, dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, and the capability to accommodate 3G/4G WWAN.
What's different compared to a consumer device, however, is that the Scorpion H2 employs a modular design that not only guards against onsolescene, but also allows configuring the H2 for numerous special tasks. DRS Technologies' expansion module roadmap includes functions such as extended battery, a USB hub, RFID, dead reckining (i.e. calculating current position based on previously determined positions), SAASM (selective availability anti-spoofing module) GPS, chemical bio detection, IR cameras, and so on. Add to that a common interface connector for external cables and devices such as tactical radios, as well as connectivity with legacy modules and components, and you have a device that's provides legacy support, state-of-the-art current capabilities, and also readiness for the future.
Needless to say, the Scorpion H2 is quite rugged as well. Despite a base weight estimated to be no more than about 10 ounces, the device carries IP67 sealing (i.e., it's totally dustproof and even survives immersion). DRS also implies the ability to pass all requisite MIL-STD-810G ruggedness testing without, however, listing details in publicly available specs. Missing, likewise, is the display's resolution, and the exact nature of the multi-touch technology used in the H2 (standard projected capacity touch doesn't work well with gloves or in wetness), included sensors, or even what the case and chassis are made of.
The world the Scorpion H2 is designed for, and must compete in, is quite obviously very different from the marketplace for smartphones. It's one where products are designed to meet very strict requirements, as opposed to imply add whatever cool and sexy new features come to mind. That's a very difficult task, and from the looks of it, DRS technologies gave this a lot of thought.