Military boffins have unveiled a real-life ‘invisibility cloak’ which allows vehicles to seamlessly blend into their surroundings.
Tanks travelling behind enemy lines can easily be picked up at night by night goggles and aircraft equipped with infra-red technology.
But engineers at BAE Systems have developed a wizard-like technology which can blend the vehicle into the background or make it resemble other objects found in the environment.
The technology, known as ‘Adaptiv’, is based on sheets of hexagonal ‘pixels’ which change temperature very rapidly and essentially turn the side of the vehicle into an infra-red TV screen.
On-board cameras then pick up the background scenery and project it through the pixels – allowing the moving tank to disappear into its environment.
The system also stores a library of images to suit a wide variety of backdrops with a tank able to resemble a cow in the countryside or a container tank on a dockside.
The hand-sized pixels have a resolution which will work up to around 300-400 metres but smaller hexagons can allow the invisibility cloak to work at far closer distances.
BAE Systems is confident it has perfected the technology, which has been unsuccessfully trialled in the past.
Project manager Peder SjÃ¶lund said: ”Earlier attempts at similar cloaking devices have hit problems because of cost, excessive power requirements or because they were insufficiently robust.
”Our panels can be made so strong that they provide useful armour protection and consume relatively low levels of electricity, especially when the vehicle is at rest in ‘stealth recce’ mode and generator output is low.
”We can resize the pixels to achieve stealth for different ranges. A warship or building, for instance, might not need close-up stealth, so could be fitted with larger panels.”
‘Adaptiv’ will be displayed for the first in infra-red mode on a BAE Systems CV90 armoured vehicle at the UK Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition at London’s Excel later this month.
The project, which is part-funded by to the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration, is focussed on the infra-red spectrum, but BAE is hoping to develop the technology over the next few years to provide all-round stealth camouflage.