Chem-bio sensor network increases reaction time
August 16, 2010
- Officials: 'This will make it easier, faster and clearer'
FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. - The U.S. Army leveraged its integrated C4ISR capabilities event at Fort Dix, N.J. to demonstrate the feasibility of a sensor network that will improve situational awareness and reaction time in the field during chemical or biological incidents.
"We're trying to increase the Soldier's situational awareness through machine-to-machine data exchange. We're using military standard formatted Nuclear, Biological and Chemical messages from a sensor located on the Soldier and passing that information over our Soldier network up to the battalion-level Tactical Operations Center so command elements can validate the event, warn other units in the vicinity and notify leadership at higher echelons," said Gordon French, a systems engineer with Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center.
Currently, there's no machine-to-machine data exchange that relays NBC information between Soldiers or command echelons, French said.
"Soldiers can have a tough time hearing or understanding what's being said while in a chemical-biological protective posture, with the mask being donned. This will make it easier, faster and clearer. If a sensor goes off or an incident occurs, they get an automatic audio alert based on the NBC message type and an icon appears on their heads-up display. They also get the NATO Allied Tactical Publication 45 triangle of the impacted area, which is an international standard used for hazard prediction," French said.
The system displays the areas that need to be contained or avoided, helps plan egress routes and notifies Soldiers when the area is "clear," French said.
"We're exploring new avenues for disseminating NBC reports and situational awareness on the battlefield. Usually this level of information would be a battalion or brigade-level capability. We're showing that they can have these capabilities at the tip of the spear so the dismounted Soldier can identify and directly report suspected or evolving NBC threats," he said.
The integrated sensor network is one piece of a joint project by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Program Executive Office Soldier and the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.
The other two components include lightweight chemical-biological protective systems to decrease the Soldier's thermal burden and advanced integrated headgear solutions for helmets and masks.
The sensor and reporting system was brought to Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance On-the-Move Event 2010 - or C4ISR OTM E10 - July 12 through 17 for a final assessment before all three pieces are to be demonstrated at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. this fall.
"This is the first integration testing of the sensor and reporting system, but we initially demonstrated the feasibility of sending machine-to-machine messages from the Soldier to the TOC during C4ISR OTM E09. This year, we expanded the types of NBC messages and included the ability to send them up and down between the Soldier worn systems and command elements," said Marc Mathews, systems engineering lead, Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.
C4ISR OTM is a research and development program within the RDECOM Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center - or CERDEC - that evaluates technical applications and maturity for emerging networking, sensors and C4ISR-enabling platforms on a year-round basis.
This is done to demonstrate the impact of integrating these capabilities in a system-of-systems environment.
Taking the systems-of-systems approach early in the design and development process allows for more robust integration and increased compatibility, Mathews said.
"There is much more flexibility for change early on in development of a technology than there is near the end. The closer you get to the final product, the more dependent each piece is on the next, and the trade offs for making even minute changes can be quite large. If you start by considering the system-of-systems environment, it allows you to mitigate this risk as much as possible throughout the process. It's helped us," Mathews said.
C4ISR OTM E10 activities were designed based on high-level objectives including the ongoing 2013-2014 capability set study directed by the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, or ASA.
These activities incorporate numerous live communications, sensor and battle command systems - all of which are complimented by a robust virtual and constructive environment.
"Coming to C4ISR OTM E10 gave us the ability to test on an actual network in actual field situations to see if the stuff works the way it's supposed to. That's key before you take something and give it to a Soldier," Mathews said.
"We have all the capabilities here at OTM to set up the communications pathways the same way you would in a normal operation which allows us to see how the components developed can perform within the framework of the overarching networks involved. The support and all the available capabilities have been awesome," Mathews said.
Aligned with the Army Network Modernization strategy, C4ISR OTM E10 is exploring leap-ahead capabilities that can augment and enhance network modernization while identifying technology acceleration opportunities into the current force.
While no requirements exist for the proposed sensor system, the joint project team hopes to illustrate value added. Demonstrating a capability helps decision makers identify legitimate options and shows a path to "futuristic" capabilities, said Lt. Col. Kelly Crigger, program manager for Advanced Technologies, DTRA.
"This is just the first step; we want to show that the capability is there and that it can be done. Ultimately, we'd like for the fabric itself to detect a toxic agent, close up to protect the Soldier from contamination and send a message up through the network before the Soldier even knows that it happened. But in order to get there one day, we have to demonstrate what capabilities are possible now so someone can write an Initial Capabilities Document that's feasible and achievable for fielding in 2012," Crigger said.
All technologies from this fall's demonstration at APG is scheduled to be transitioned to Uniform Individual Protective Equipment, a Program of Record life-cycle managed by the Joint Project Manager for Individual Protection, Crigger said.
C4ISR OTM E10 is scheduled to continue execution through Sept. 2, at Fort Dix, N.J.
Learn more about <a href="http://go.usa.gov/cXD">C4ISR OTM</a> or contact CERDEC Public Affairs at (732) 427-1594. Follow CERDEC on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/cerdec">Twitter</a> and <a href="http://www.facebook.com/cerdec">Facebook</a>.