04/22/2014

Tim DeesPolice Tech & Gear
with Tim Dees

Is 'RoboCop' HUD tech coming to law enforcement soon?

It’s not difficult to see how Q-Warrior technology could be ported to law enforcement applications

A standard feature in movies about futuristic warrior types is the head-up display (HUD). Both the original and newly released revival version of RoboCop had one, as did the Terminator and Iron Man. As with so many other things, science is catching up to science fiction. 

BAE Systems — a major defense contractor and former parent company of police equipment vendor Safariland — has an operational prototype of a HUD system for ground combat troops, called Q-Warrior. The prototype is undergoing field testing. 

The system consists of a see-through display, attached to a chest- or back-worn computing and communications module. The display is roughly oval-shaped and about the size of a business card. It mounts onto the side of the existing combat helmet. The data on the display is superimposed on the wearer’s normal field of vision, so the user can still navigate, sight a weapon, and respond to a threat.

Police Applications for Q-Warrior
Q-Warrior provides a kind of augmented reality, where data about objects in view displays to the wearer, without anyone else being able to see what he sees. If the wearer focuses on the top of a distant building, the display shows the compass bearing to the building, as well as its elevation and range. In a superimposed window, the wearer could see a local map, displaying the physical, real-time locations of the other members of his squad. Data blocks show the call signs of support aircraft, along with their altitude, distance, and armaments on board. 

It’s not difficult to see how this technology could be ported to law enforcement applications. Tactical officers would use the display in much the same way that combat troops do, keeping track of the locations of their teammates and perhaps seeing a floor plan of the building they were searching. 

Areas of the building that had been cleared could be color-coded, so that everyone can monitor the progress of the incident. 

Imagery from other equipment and people is also available to the Q-Warrior wearer. One operator with an infrared search camera could send the output from his device to everyone else. The image from a small UAV overhead could be viewed on the Q-Warrior display. 

By incorporating law enforcement data networks, police users might experience real-time facial recognition of people they encountered, along with any data on whether or not the subject may be wanted (as well as driver’s license status). With a rear-mounted camera, an officer could almost literally have eyes in the back of his head, and see both forward and to the rear at the same time. 

As of right now, the computing and communications module that supplies the input to the Q-Warrior display is the size of a lunchbox, and is worn on the chest or back. 

It’s only a matter of time before it gets much smaller, maybe even small enough to ride on the helmet itself without having to rely on a separate module. If that sounds fanciful, remember that it wasn’t so long ago that the notion of having a telephone, still and video camera, music player, computer, calculator, and TV/movie display all in your shirt pocket — and costing no more than a couple of days’ pay — sounded pretty fantastic, too. 

About the author

Tim Dees is a writer, editor, trainer, and former law enforcement officer. After 15 years as a police officer with the Reno Police Department and elsewhere in Northern Nevada, Tim taught criminal justice as a full-time professor and instructor at colleges in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Georgia, and Oregon.

He was also a regional training coordinator for the Oregon Dept. of Public Safety Standards & Training, providing in-service training to 65 criminal justice agencies in central and eastern Oregon.

Tim has written more than 300 articles for nearly every national law enforcement publication in the United States, and is the author of The Truth About Cops, published by Hyperink Press. In 2005, Tim became the first editor-in-chief for Officer.com, moving to the same position for LawOfficer.com at the beginning of 2008. He now writes on applications of technology in law enforcement from his home in SE Washington state.

Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science from San José State University, a master’s degree in criminal justice from The University of Alabama, and the Certified Protection Professional credential from ASIS International. He serves on the executive board of the Public Safety Writers Association.

Dees can be reached at tim.dees@policeone.com.

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