Military Technology. 10 things that have reached the civilian world

Feb 11, 2015

Every year large sums of taxpayers money is directed into the development of new technologies and systems for use by military forces, to try to stay one step ahead of rivals and respond to new threats from both governmental and non-governmental forces.


When first introduced, many of these technologies seem fantastical and irrelevant to those of us outside the military world, but often they find their way into our lives through everyday products. Here we take a look at some of those products that have found a wider civilian use from their military origins.


gillrd-military technology gps

1. GPS.

Possibly the best known military to civilian application. The Global Positioning System satellites were set up by the U.S. Department of Defence in the 1990's and have now become so ubiquitous that it is found in any number of applications.


Using GPS's three basic components of absolute location, relative movement and time transfer, it is used in devices such as in car sat-nav and our mobile phones.


2. Duct Tape.

Developed by Revolite, a division of Johnson & Johnson, during the Second World War, a rubber based water resistant adhesive tape made was developed to seal ammunition cases.


Designed to be ripped by hand to save valuable time, many subsequent variations has become widespread in its use from HVAC to spaceflight, but always identifiable by its grey colour.


3. Microwaves.

Discovered accidentally by American Percy Spencer, he noticed that the microwaves from an active radar set he was working on started to melt a chocolate bar in his pocket. Spencer then determined that the microwave radiation was responsible for heating the confectionary and not the wrapper and suggested using this phenomenon to cook food.


In 1947 Raytheon, Spencer's employer, launched the first microwave oven which was water cooled, 1.8 metres tall and weighed 340kg. The technology has improved a little since then...


gillrd military technology aviator sunglasses

4. Aviator Sunglasses.

Originally developed in 1936 by Ray-Ban, the Aviator sunglasses or ‘pilots’ glasses’ were designed to protect pilots’ eyes whilst flying.


Covering as much of the eye as possible and tempered to block up to 80% of incoming light, the original Aviators were essential equipment for fighter pilots and bomber crews who always had to keep an eye out for enemy planes coming out of the angle of the sun. Since then, they have gone on to become iconic fashion items.


5. Jerrycan.

Initially developed for the German military in the 1930's to provide a robust, pressed steel fuel container to hold 20 litres. This was a significant improvement on earlier designs of container which required tools and funnels to use.


Subsequently copied by the Americans, British and Russians they are still in production today and are also available in plastic versions.


6. Freeze Drying.

Developed during World War Two, freeze drying was developed as a commercial process to stop serum supplies being sent from America to Europe for medical treatment spoiling before it reached its destination.


Enabling the serum to be rendered chemically stable and viable without having to be refrigerated, the process was then applied to penicillin and bone, and is now used as a preservation for a wide variety of products including food processing, pharmaceuticals, manufacture of ceramics in the semiconductor industry, production of synthetic skin and restoration of water damaged documents.


7. Cargo Pants.

First worn by members of the British Army in 1938, Cargo pants were introduced to the United States in the mid 1940’s. They are loosely cut trousers whose design is distinguished by one or more large pockets, useful for carrying military equipment such as ammunition.


Made of hard wearing fabric and ruggedly stitched, cargo pants have become popular in urban environments for carrying items during day trips on foot, or carrying all the mobile electronic equipment so essential to modern life.


gillrd military technology camera

8. Digital Cameras.

Spy satellites with high resolution cameras have been a part of military intelligence for many years, but they initially suffered a major drawback in having to retrieve the undeveloped rolls of film from the atmosphere, which resulted in many losses of valuable intelligence.


The NASA/USAF KH-11 'Kennan' satellite of 1976 resolved this problem by using an electro-optical camera that transmitted images in encoded digital format. The fundamentals of this technology are still in use in modern digital cameras, and the updated form of KH-11 is still a major part of surveillance technology.


9. KytoStat Bandages.

 Originally developed to stop haemorrhaging and severe bleeding on the battlefield, their blood stopping technology is made from Chitosan, a natural derivative of shrimp shells.


When it comes into contact with blood the bandage becomes extremely sticky, forming an adhesive, antibacterial seal over the wound. The positively charged chitosan attracts negatively charged red blood cells, causing coagulation and clotting. Bleeding stops fast. These bandages are especially useful for people on dialysis, undergoing chemotherapy, using blood thinners, taking anti-coagulants or anyone whose natural clotting ability is diminished or non-existent.


10. Computers/Internet.

Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) was the first electronic general purpose computer. It was the first digital computer capable of being reprogrammed to solve a large range of numerical problems, initially designed to calculate artillery firing tables for the US Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory.


Additionally, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was involved in the establishment of a networking concept between computers with the creation of the ARPANET, a packet switching network. In1969 four host computers were connected into the ARPANET and the budding internet was off the ground.

This list of products derived from the military illustrates that from the simple to the sophisticated, the development of military solutions can provide the basis of products that become a part of everyday life.

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