Arduino hits the battlefield — for real

We’re not sure if this is the first time, but here’s some pretty solid proof that Arduino has found its way into the weapons of war. The creators, [Derek Wales], [John Eischer], and [George Hopkins] are all Electronics Engineering majors at West Point. They came up with this idea after seeing video footage of a firefight in Afghanistan where combat soldiers were calling in artillery strikes using a compasses and GPS devices. It’s an all-in-one unit that can provide the same information quickly and accurately. The prototype above, which they call the DemonEye, contains a laser range finder, digital compass, and a GPS module. The article also states that it contains a mini-computer but we recognize that as an Arduino Mega (thanks to¬†Miguel over at Areopago 21 for noticing this first and sending in the tip about it).

The prototype apparently comes in at $1000. Okay, it seems a bit high but not out of the ballpark. What we can’t understand is how the second generation of devices was billed out at $100,000 for five more units. What’s the going rate for laying out military-grade PCBs?


  1. Life2Death says:

    If it could handle it, I know the Propeller can do some awesome temperature swings and keep going…

    I worked at a fab house that did military parts for a living, and they are nothing special other than they usually dont tolerate any rework-age of their parts, and the paper trail is stupidly stupid.

  2. captain says:

    $1000 to $100,000 that’s just standard Pentagon markup. You don’t really think a toilet seat costs $5000 each do you?

    This looks like the laser pointer device used in the movie “The Battle for Los Angeles”.

  3. hans says:

    @Whatnot in the days of Amiga it was common to include a no-military-use clause in the license. Personally I think that’s a great thing to do, if you don’t want your software to be used in support of the industry of death and destruction. I don’t know if you can add such a clause to a GPL license though.

  4. Polymath says:

    @All. I thought this was a logical group! Lots of ‘military industrial complex’ hate rhetoric but all seemingly from kids who haven’t worked in the field on this kind of stuff. 10K bolt, I call BS. Tech’s in the field don’t even have access to costing information, that is handled by procurement.

  5. andrew says:

    Regarding communicating with the rangefinder, it looks like they used a TruPulse model ( which have RS232 (or Bluetooth on some). The 200 model starts at $700, which would represent a sizable portion of the prototype’s stated budget.

  6. Slyclops says:

    Um, just so we’re clear, this isn’t a first-of-it’s-kind product. I work with these devices and the company has been making them and selling them to the military for a number of years. And if you think $1000 is high, think again. A year of labor for a dozen engineers will easily dwarf the cost of the parts, but they do cost more than you’d think, especially lasers and optics. The military also has rigid performance requirements, things like requiring the device to operate down to -30 degrees C (yes, I mean celsius).

  7. I built one of these into a sniper scope over a year ago. here is the test video:

  8. Mental2k says:

    Lol, the thought that the military are paying too much is a tad over exaggerated. I’m not saying there’s not a bit of price hiking, but in the aircraft industry it’s routine to charge 4 to 6 times cost for an electronic component. That’s not just component cost either that includes labour.

    A lot of that goes to cover dev costs. Now while the prototype is only $1000 that in no way covers the man hours for dev. I can make $1000 in 14hrs lecturing, and I’m only a PhD student. Take into account basic debugging, 3rd party testing and mil-spec components? How many hours is that, with everyone taking their cut along the way, 10k? Not that expensive really.

  9. Anon says:

    I build targeting systems for the battlefield… This thing will not work on the battlefield for several reasons. First, the rangefinder is too short of range, and these have been shown to not work reliably on low-reflective targets. Expect to pay $2k+ for a decent short range (< 3km) rangefinder module. This doesn't even count integration. Second, civilian GPSs are not trusted on the battlefield. Go lookup Army PM GPS and watch the video on the website on why civilian GPSs suck. Third, DMCs are inherently worthless on the battlefield due to magnets in the helmets for NVGs, magnetic disturbances from metal objects (guns, HMMWVs, etc.), etc. This is a cool idea, but will inherently end up back to using a system like Vectronix's PLRF.

  10. effigy says:

    I know I’m not the first one to throw it out, but there seem to be some commenter still missing the point:

    you can put whatever clauses you want in your license, the US gov’t has intrinsic claims to ALL U.S. IP, whether patented, publicly licensed, or othwerwise. You’re only wasting your breath/ink.

  11. @Anon says:

    Clearly you missed the part where this is a prototype. Either that, our you don’t understand what a prototype is.

    Prototype (noun): A first or preliminary model of something, esp. a machine, from which other forms are developed or copied.

  12. jimbob says:

    You’re almost all missing the point here. Yes, this functionality existed 10 years ago when I was an infantry officer. Yes, the big fancy ones that the forward observer carries are better all around. The point of this project is to allow the lowest level leader (the team leader, with a 5 man team) to have the capability to rapidly get a relatively accurate grid for calling fire by being, and this is the important part, cheap enough to distribute down to that level with acceptable accuracy. TFA didn’t really explain any of that, but my alumni magazine did…

  13. mbear says:

    Have a look at the requirements of MIL-STD-810 and then ask why it costs so much.

  14. Yeah, I need a PIC that has a cheap programmer(I am strapped on cash at the moment), can be programmed in C, C++, or Java(only languages I know, also preferably Java or C), and can output serial and array style output. What i’m using it for is to decode 22 inputs from a arcade controller that I have fashioned. I am using Arduino to decode the inputs and outputing serial information to the computer, but Arduino only has 12 digital I/O pins, I need at least 25. If there is a better way to do this, i’d love to know. Essentially, the chip is going to be wired to some of the buttons and joysticks, along with a makeshift coin slot that runs on a microswitch. After the data hits the arduino, it outputs to the computer like a keyboard, outputing certain keys depending on the input it recieves. So, any ideas?

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