Profs design AK47-locating 'smart dust' helmets
Satnav network node-lids backtrack bullets, ID weapons
Acoustic gunshot detectors have become common in the past few years, and some have been reduced in size to where a single soldier can wear one on his uniform and be cued-in to an enemy's location as soon as he fires.
Engineers in Tennessee, however, are touting the idea of tieing a unit of footsoldiers' acoustic shot-spot sensors together in a wireless net. They think this would offer several benefits: the system wouldn't be confused by echoes or multiple enemies firing at once, and it would be able to locate gunmen who weren't in line-of-sight from an individual soldier. Perhaps even more impressively, the networked sonic system is able to distinguish the calibre of weapons fired, and even in some cases identify different weapons firing the same kind of ammunition.
Vanderbilt University's inhouse Exploration mag reported last week on the gunshot-locator net developed by the uni's Institute for Software Integrated Systems (ISIS). It involves mounting a small electronics package on each soldier's helmet, running on four AA batteries.
In each package is a wireless network node, of a type dubbed a "smart-dust mote" for its small size and cheapness. There are also four separated microphones, for picking up the acoustic signatures of flying bullets, and a GPS satnav location system. The GPS isn't accurate enough to act as a basis for properly pinning down opposing gunmen, so the Vanderbilt boffins added a crafty radio interferometry enhancement system of their own - apparently of such cunning that it has attracted as much interest as the rest of the system on its own.
The system works by picking up the distinctive conical shockwave trailing behind a passing supersonic bullet - the same phenomenon which produces a sonic boom behind a plane at Mach 1+. This is then related to the muzzle blast from the weapon which fired it, trailing slightly behind (the two noises are heard by people under fire as "crack-thud", or "crack-bang"). A software algorithm in the unit can work out a range and bearing to the enemy weapon's muzzle.
So far, so ordinary: a system much like the Qinetiq-America "Ears" or others already under trial with US forces.
But then various special sauces developed by ISIS prof Akos Ledeczi and his team kick in. All the smart-dust node hats in the squad or platoon net pass their information back and forth, and a special patented filter strips out false muzzle-blast reports - the great bugbear of such technology. The supersonic bullet-booms are very distinctive, it seems, but the muzzle blasts are much harder to distinguish from random banging sounds or echoes - especially with lots of guns firing at once in a built-up area.
As every node has a good idea exactly where it is, owing to its embedded radio-interferometry-enhanced GPS, the combined reports can thus be boiled down to locate all the guns firing nearby within a metre or two - enough to pinpoint which window, corner or whatever each enemy is shooting from. Apparently it still works even in the case of crafty snipers lurking well back from windows - the usual method favoured by the pros. Nor is the system bothered by guns firing out of line of sight - hidden behind walls or buildings or whatever.
Not exactly Bluetooth
The article appears to incorrectly identify a “Bluetooth radio” rather than the Micaz, per the paper. The MICAz is a 2.4GHz IEEE 802.15.4 mote module for enabling low-power, wireless sensor networks. Bluetooth is too power hungry for this type of application. More information on the MICAz can be found here - http://www.xbow.com/Home/wHomePage.aspx, and information on other Mote applications is available here - http://blog.xbow.com/.
Whilst this scores top points in the tech dept, it really fails miserably in the infantryman dept.
The core problem being addressed by this technology is - That your unit is being shot at by an enemy who knows where you are, and you have no clue about their location .. at least until they open fire on you, at a time and place of their choosing.
If your units are consistently in that position, then its already game over long before the first shot is fired.
Adding thousands of dollars worth of electronics to your walking cannon fodder is barely an adequate response. It smacks of desperation far more than it does intelligence.
How about TRAINING your soldiers to patrol properly in the first place ?
It would be far better to know where the enemy is first, keep your own movements hidden, and engage on your own terms. Fancy electronics are not going to help here at all, especially against an enemy who is capable of BASIC good old fashioned fieldcraft.
Thank God I have fellow Australian soldiers covering my ass if I am ever back at the sharp end.
First problem, how is this system going to tell the difference between friendly fire and not so friendly fire because the enemy could also be using M16.
Second problem would be if the system can identify who is friend or who is not by some kind of signal being emitted from the friendly soldier amour- what is stop the enemy from sending a missle to home into that signal