Mobile & Wireless News

UK Troops In Afghanistan Want Solar Gadgets

MOD announces a new scheme to get troops the gifts they need in the run-up to Christmas – and solar powered chargers are a favourite item

Business travelers in sunny climes are starting to use solar chargers to fuel the family of gadgets they haul around with them – and it seems that soldiers on a combat tour are no different.

But while using a solar charger might be a “green” choice for some, for front-line troops the decision to use the sun is more out of necessity than concern for the environment.

Along with a range of other high-tech kit including portable DVD players, game consoles and solar or wind-up radios, solar chargers are on the list of must-haves for troops in Afghanistan according to a statement released by the Ministry of Defence this week. A campaign is under way to provide the solar powered tech to troops in Afghanistan’s Forward Operating Bases thanks to sponsorship from Littlewoods and

According to the MOD, troops want the solar chargers to top-up MP3 players and other gadgets. Earlier this year, US start-up Novothink launched a case for iPods and iPhones with a built in solar panel. The Surge, as the device is known, is a plastic back cover for iPods and iPhones that adds about 10mm to the thickness of the phone, and has a built-in solar panel. Two hours of charging gives about half an hour of talk time, says Novothink.

The MOD released details of the wish-list as part of wider plans to publicise a scheme to channel donated cash and presents for frontline troops into a central fund which is easier to manage then sending out items individually. The Operational Welfare Fund announced this week by the MOD and The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Familes Association (SSAFA Forces) Help is an alternative way for members of the public to send gifts to troops in a way that doesn’t overload the military’s postal system – and delay mail from relatives and friends.

“The generosity and heartfelt support of communities at home is important in keeping up morale, often in very difficult conditions,” said vice admiral Peter Wilkinson, the deputy chief of the Defence Staff. “However, experience over the past two years has shown that the operational mail system can be swamped by the public’s generosity with the result that the all important personal mail becomes significantly delayed. While parcels from the public are without doubt popular with recipients, the delays they inevitably cause to the delivery of personal mail are considerably less welcome.”

In June, handset maker ZTE launched a low-cost solar phone which can be used without any mains electricity at all, thanks to a claimed solar cell breakthrough which could power other devices. The Coral-200-Solar has a single solar panel on a specially-designed back, but is otherwise a customised version of ZTE’s Coral 200, a leading ultra-low-cost phone designed for emerging markets.

Samsung announced a “Blue Earth” touchscreen phone, and has delivered a $60 dual-charging Solar Guru E1107 phone in India, which claims to provide five to ten minutes talk time from one hour in the sun.

The Operational Welfare Fund is especially important given the rise in donations to troops expected at Christmas. “I appreciate, just as members of the Armed Forces do, the public’s great generosity when they choose to send Christmas parcels out to the troops. Public support is such a great morale-booster. But I really cannot stress enough that donating to the Operational Welfare Fund is a much more effective way of supporting our servicemen and women,” said Armed Forces minister, Bill Rammell MP.

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