Military advances in civil engineering

During the movie Apollo 13, I love the scene when the engineers and scientists gather the equipment and supplies available to the spacecraft crew and set to work on building an adapter. They must develop a solution for their compromised colleagues as quickly as possible. It’s the ultimate think tank scenario, with life or death consequences.

Remarkably, I recently learned that our military created a system to provide the same type of thinktank services to field troops for civil engineering problems.

Soldiers, like the astronauts, face dangerous situations during which time and resources are limited, and for which their education and training may not have prepared them. Thanks to TeleEngineering, they now have support – in real time – provided by experts who have access to required tools.

The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, Miss., the research organization of the Corps of Engineers, developed a satellite-based communications system to support this concept. It created compact, mobile field devices, which consist of two, suitcase-sized units that provide a satellite terminal with a laptop and a camcorder.

Secure, two-way interactive video conferencing, voice communication, and still photo sharing are enabled. Additionally, a team of stateside experts have been organized; this group includes engineers and scientists in private, public, and academic settings. With these systems and experts on hand, combat engineers can transmit data and images, explain their problems, and quickly receive effective solutions.

TeleEngineering capabilities have been used through all stages of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, as well as in Afghanistan. A few examples of issues encountered by soldiers for which they need assistance include the following: analyses of hydraulic structures, dams, and river crossings to determine how water could impact maneuverability and military operations; bridge analyses to determine the types of military traffic that could be sustained, to assess damage, and to design repairs and upgrades; and structural and bomb damage assessments to determine structural strength and building integrity, and to evaluate enemy attack effectiveness. Obviously, civil engineering is an important function of the military both domestically and abroad, during times of war and peace. And learning about these valuable (and let’s admit, really cool!) technologies gives me the same thrill as watching that great scene in Apollo 13.

Of course, the military is not just a leader in providing civil engineering services and developing new technologies, it is also a major client to those civil engineers in the private sector. For these reasons, CE News presents its first Military Engineering Series. These articles will showcase projects and introduce technologies and programs being applied by the military, many of which have other applications as well. Additionally, we’ll provide business advice for those interested in providing services to the military market. In this issue, Michael Tardif walks you through the FedBizOpps website step-bystep so that you can track all federal project opportunities, including those with the military. Jean Childers, ATM-B, with AMEC, details how ground-penetrating imaging radar functions and has been applied to locate unexploded ordnance and munitions on range fields, among other uses.

Another newcomer to the pages this month is Workplace Practices, a bi-monthly department that will provide data and advice about topics such as time-off policies, retirement benefits, and company culture. Also, it includes updates for the annual Best Civil Engineering Firm To Work For Contest.

(It is that time again! Go to to learn more.)

Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.

Posted in Uncategorized | January 29th, 2014 by

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