A new concept in Electro-Optical Camouflage
Project Chameleo is a project dedicated to the development of a new Camouflage system. “Chameleo” is the name of the genus of the “Chameleon”, that wonderful little creature so clever at changing colors and merging with the background.
Project Chameleo plans to have a wide range of uses, whether from the office or on the battlefield. The cloaking system uses a thin video screen between the observer and the object being concealed while at the same time presenting a full color image of the background on the screen, thus providing the illusion that the object is not there. Other uses include heating or cooling a facility via the variable reflective properties, as well as environmental enhancements in office buildings in lieu of a window.
The need for the camouflage aspect of this system arises out of the present state of the art of military camouflage in the visible light spectrum which is generally limited to techniques involving painting, coloring, and/or contour shaping to allow an object to better blend in with the background; such methods do little to conceal moving objects as their appearance must be constantly controlled from the viewpoint of the observer to blend in with the changing background. The need for the energy saving aspect of the system arises out of the present state of the art of architecture and security systems used to house and protect national resources. Conventional construction materials such as wood, steel, or concrete do not lend themselves to efficient thermal control. Likewise, security system schemes are patently overt with high profile resources seen bristling with barbed wire fences, video cameras, and armed personnel, drawing immediate attention to the value of the resources. Also, little has been done to utilize modern advancements in optoelectronics, computers, or microminiature components to camouflage industrial facilities or to control emissions from within structures.
Energy Impact At National Level
If this system concept is applied to the construction of at least one new major industrial facility in each of the fifty states, energy conservation in the United States could range from approximately 5 to 8 billion dollars per year. Average annual net savings of at least 100 million dollars per facility per year in operational costs should result in total amortization of the cloaking system portion of the facility within ten years. Energy conservation and costs savings would consist of two major operational categories:
(a) reduction of security provisions and personnel; and
(b) reduction in heating and air conditioning costs by usage of novel emission control techniques
Estimates of design, development, and manufacturing costs vary widely depending upon the application. While design and development costs for the camouflage application to screen a small vehicle such as a large truck, tank, or single seat aircraft could be as high as $50 million, production designs could be tailored for each application to result in cloaking costs around 10% of the vehicle cost. Costs to cloak larger vehicles would increase as a function of surface area to be shielded. While initial design and development of a cloaking and emission control system for a five acre sized weapons production facility could cost $100 million, production costs for the next similar facility should drop to no more than $50 million. Costs to cloak larger facilities would be proportionately greater but total amortization of cloaking system costs should be realized within a ten year period. Miniature concept demonstration models of the above applications would cost approximately 10% of the above design and development costs.
Commercial Viability And Special Development Problems
The advanced state of digital computer imagery using thin panel high definition displays allows the presentation of extremely realistic scenes on flat or curved shields designed to conceal an object, making cloaking technology a reality at a reasonable cost. While fragility and glint are undesirable characteristics of current displays, the development of rugged nonspecular displays to overcome these problems is clearly within the state-of-the-art. Optical problems involving parallax, view angle dependence, tilt angle, and 3-D effects can be minimized at longer distances. Likewise, tailored applications using monochrome, dazzle patterns, or artificial images in lieu of the actual background will prove to be advantageous in certain scenarios. Also, stealth techniques using various types of absorptive materials may be added to minimize radar and sonar detection. In the energy savings application, variable reflective capability to control energy levels within a structure could most effectively be applied to new construction; production energy sources would be integrated with screen display cells and sensors to control energy emission or absorption, thus maintaining temperature within the facility at desired levels by using the electro-optical shutter characteristics of emissive or absorptive display pixels. Energy savings from the application of cloaking technology to new industrial construction would result in total amortization of these cloaking features within a ten year period.
Development Support Needed
The conceptual design phase is considered to be essentially complete at this time; the next logical activity would be to develop a miniature concept demonstration scale model. A reasonable size for a semicircular screen, or shield, to conceal a small moving object would be approximately two feet across, or one-half of the circular circumference, and one foot high. It is conservatively estimated that labor, materials, and facility overhead to develop a concept demonstration model of this size would cost approximately $300,000. Salary expenses for two engineers and one technician would be required for approximately one year. Inquiries with the representatives of the display industry have indicated that a nonspecular liquid crystal display of this size could be constructed for approximately $50,000. The required charge coupled device (CCD) cameras, a digital computer, and motive apparatus would cost approximately another $50,000. Facility lease and operational costs for a laboratory area of approximately 1,800 square feet should not exceed $30,000 for a one year period.