Three research groups are developing web-based systems that will enable disparate design teams to collaborate on future military vehicles.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has given contracts to the Georgia Institute of Technology, Vanderbilt University and General Electric to come up with open-source software that allows for easy widespread collaboration.
The goal of the program, dubbed VehicleForge, is to create a secure central website and other online tools that would facilitate the development of vehicle concepts. It is part of a four-year, $10 million DARPA effort to foster novel approaches to the design and manufacturing of defense systems and vehicles.
“The aim here is to fundamentally change the way in which complex systems are taken from concept to reality,” said Jack Zentner, a senior research engineer leading the team at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “By enabling many designers in varied locations to work together in a distributed manner, we’re confident that vehicles, and eventually other systems, can be developed with greater speed and better results.”
The core website, to be located at vehicleforge.mil, will allow individuals and teams to share data, models and ideas to improve the design process. It will help bridge the gap that often exists between large corporations with significant resources and small innovative groups with different skill sets and experiences, researchers said. Student teams also can participate.
Several components are being developed for the website, including an interface that includes word processor-like editors, access control and forum-style discussions. Developers also envision a family of mashup applications that combine data from different sources elsewhere on the Internet.
The Georgia team is focusing on making vehicleforge.mil a major open-hardware design repository, similar to the way sites such as github.com and sourceforge.net have become for open-source software development.
“But the challenges of online collaboration for physical systems like vehicles are greater than [those] for software collaboration, because designers of physical systems typically use a wide variety of modeling languages and data formats,” said Joshua Davis, a research scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
By the end of the year, Davis’ team plans to have a website up and open to a limited number of users. Not long after that, they hope a variety of engineers and designers will be collaborating on the site.