US Army scientists are currently researching a new range of armoured vehicles with built-in sensors that could automatically warn soldiers about damage to the vehicle.
US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) research scientist Thomas Meitzler said the aim was to give troops real-time situational awareness of the health, condition and structural integrity of their vehicle's armour.
"Normal wear and tear can cause damage lamination and produce cracks that are invisible to the naked eye, and noise on the battlefield can prevent an armoured vehicle's occupants from hearing when small-arms fire causes damage," he said.
"We are basically using ultrasonic waves through the material as our probe on the health assessment of the armour."
The built-in sensors known as piezoelectric transducers will be manufactured right into the armoured plate materials and detect changes in their condition.
The piezoelectric transducers send automated reports to a graphically displayed colour-coded system that indicates green when the armour is healthy, black when damage occurs, and red shows the exact spot where the armour was hit.
Every time the vehicle is turned on the system runs a self check while evaluations on the vehicle condition can be run manually at any time.
The first phase of testing at the TARDEC laboratory will involve shooting at armoured plates with built-in sensors and examining the results, while the second phase will test durability in the field.