Thanks to Mr. Cramer for taking the time to answer a few questions about his approach to camouflage and the art of deception! Two words…Quantum Stealth… this a great read from a man on the bleeding edge of camouflage design technology!
Q. What is your philosophy on camouflage?
A. Camouflage looks so simple, but it is so very complex that we have yet to master it. My goal is to develop both patterns and technologies which hinder the acquisition of the target so much as to provide an advantage which can change the balance of power in the battlefield. We’ve accomplished this with the Optifade hunting patterns I designed for W.L. Gore; the deer are unable to see the hunter; but deer have limited color vision which I was able to exploit. I strive to do the same with human vision but also have to work outside of the visible spectrum as optical enhancing technologies are commonly used in the battlefield.
Q. What makes your process unique?
A. I have designed many fractal algorithms to place these fractals (natural geometric shapes which have feed-back-loops) into the patterns – thus making the target more difficult to spot as the human brain perceives these shapes as belonging within the background and ignores them.
I also have proprietary research that confirms which factors are most effective; obviously I won’t disclose that information, other camouflage designers are just guessing – much of the time based on what they see our company producing, we don’t show the latest or greatest patterns (our web site only shows a small portion of what we are actually involved with). Every time we confirm another improvement, we will go back to some of our older designs and tweak them with the new feature(s).
Q. Many companies focus solely on uniforms, but your patterns are used to hide everything from individual soldiers to buildings. How do you view the role of camouflage in the battle space?
A. A fractal is a shape which is difficult to tell apart if no scale reference is available, if you place a small individual leaf of a fern next to the main leaf of a fern, if you increased the size of the small leaf to match the main leaf, they would look similar. Camouflage for uniforms, vehicles and buildings can be done in the same way, if we’ve developed the pattern correctly, then scaling up the pattern will work on a vehicle or building the same way it works on a person – blending them into the background.
Q. What has been the most unusual or extreme application of camo you have worked on that you can discuss?
A. That I am allowed to discuss: probably the USMC Snow Camouflage, now being referred to as Snow MARPAT, although it is a completely different pattern configuration to Woodland or Desert MARPAT. Most in the military thought the all white for snow camouflage was going to always be the best concealment, it took us months to come up with something better, but the objective testing confirmed that our pattern (Snow MARPAT) was statistically even with the all-over-white in open areas but significantly surpassed it when the soldier was next to some cover (Bush, trees, rocks); soldiers will always choose cover over hiding in the open unless there is no other choice.
Q. When working with countries overseas, what are some of the major challenges you face?
A. The “Middleman”; many countries require someone with a company from their country represent our product, there is no rule book to tell you which countries require this. It’s very difficult to determine if there is even a requirement for their military or police for a camouflage pattern or if the company is just looking for something to approach their government with. I can’t tell you how many times these companies have wasted months of our time asking us to develop something for which we later learn there is no specific requirement for. We’ve learned from this process and now only work with the middleman once we’ve been contacted by their military who have confirmed the request, more often then not we learn at that stage that the government will work directly with us and the middleman was never required.
Q. Many of my interviews on the subject of camouflage have been limited to uniforms and the like. Looking at your website, there are images of your products on helicopters, planes and land vehicles. How does designing patterns and color pallets differ from people to vehicles? To be specific, how do you camouflage a jet?!
A. They don’t differ that much, (see previous explanation on fractal pattern scaling), what does differ is the background, if it’s an aircraft are we concerned about it being spotted from the ground while it’s in the air or from the air while it’s parked on the ground or from the air while it’s flying over water, or land (what king of land – what season of the year)…are we attempting to hide the aircraft or deceive the adversary into thinking it’s something else or upside-down (painted false canopy’s). Jet’s get into dogfights and this is where deception becomes critical; one underestimation of where your opponent is going will cost you dearly. Each scenario has an outcome on the pattern – we’ve developed camouflage for Predator UAV’s where they are attempting to hide the aircraft from eyes on the ground and also from other aircraft above, a UAV’s success, like many aircraft, depends on not being spotted in the first place.
Q. Can you tell us about SMARTCAMO?
A. It is a camouflage which can change color to match the environment – woodland – transitional – desert – winter (all in one), the drawback is that it’s powered – battery or power source required and it’s expensive when compared to a traditional uniform – approximately 10 times the cost – so we expect that only Special Forces will be able to utilize this technology for uniforms, however, the power requirement limitation to the soldier is not a limit for a vehicle with an engine and the cost for concealing a vehicle can be justified by the overall cost and value of the vehicle.
Q. What are some of the ideal applications of SMARTCAMO?
A. Most people forget that the battlefield can be a 24/7 scenario, what works at 12 PM, doesn’t work at 12 AM. So it allows the operator to match over the whole day to the changes that take place even when you’re not moving. When you are moving, quite often your background will also change and Smartcamo will change colors to adapt to the closest match when ever and wherever you are.
Q. Is it a fabric, solid or applied surface?
A. Unable to comment
Q. I understand you are going to release more info on the SMARTCAMO at Warrior East next week, can you give us a sneak peek?
A. Sorry, unable to comment
Q. I have heard that there is a video showing you may have developed a new technology (Quantum Stealth) that appears to bends light in the visible spectrum. Please share with us what you can about the product.
A. The principle is based on a Quantum Mechanics experiment, the material bends light around the target and someone viewing the target will only see what is behind the target – not the target itself, many people have difficultly with this concept but we bend light everyday with fibre optics – I’ve just managed to do it differently.
Right out of High School I was an apprentice to my Grandfather, Donald L. Hings C.M., M.B.E., P.Eng. (Inventor of the first Walkie-Talkie along with 56 other patents, he was also considered the leading Canadian scientist in WWII). He taught me things I could never have learned anywhere else and he taught me how to solve problems as he had discovered through many years of trial and error. I may only be in my 40’s but I started down this path in my 20’s with all the knowledge and wisdom of my grandfather who was in his 80’s at the time.
Q. From what I have read, is it true it was accidentally discovered?
A. Correct, I was researching another aspect of Quantum mechanics and accidently discovered this, which is ironic if you know the background on Schrodinger’s cat thought experiment where what you expect is not what you might get with quantum theory.
Q. Is Quantum Stealth effective against IR and Thermal detection as well?
Q. What does the future hold for Hyperstealth?
A. I don’t know it is very difficult to plan the future when things constantly change; it’s been a fun ride so far. We are really changing the industry with the Ghostex line; back in 2005 it would take years to get patterns designed and made but only if you met the 10,000 yard minimum order per color scheme plus potential loss of IP (intellectual property) as groups we didn’t know were provided our full pattern graphics. Jump ahead to 2010 and I can now design a pattern, print it on our textile printer within minutes onto military specified fabric and have enough completed for 5-10 uniforms out the door that day, no minimum order, no delays and no loss of IP.
We knew that one day traditional methods of camouflage would be overtaken by technology; I didn’t expect it would be I who would developed it. Once you begin to make new discoveries whole new branches can fork off in different directions and it is easy to get side tracked by some of these while losing focus on the main tree trunk. Because I am limited in how much time I have to spend on R&D, I can’t focus on one new technology to long and forget the day to day operations of the company – clients, customers, administration all have their place. As such these new technologies may not be coming out as fast as most would like, but those delays also allow for improvements so when I finally hand them off to the Military they will be able to take these technologies and turn them into useful durable game-changing military advantages.