The next generation of wearable sensors for frontline troops

The UK's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, together with industry partners Roke Manor Research, QinetiQ and Systems Engineering and Assessment, has developed dismounted close combat sensors which enable GPS-free navigation, automatic threat detection and information sharing for frontline troops. With successful demonstrations of the sensor technology completed in September, Claire Apthorp finds out how the system keeps pace with the challenges of conflict in urban areas.

Global positioning system (GPS) data has transformed the way soldiers navigate and acquire targeting information in the field. Having reliable information showing where each unit, vehicle and aerial platform is at all times increases situational awareness for both soldiers and commanders. GPS is also central to the way targeting information is acquired for many weapons systems. As a result, access to a reliable and accurate GPS signal in the field has become a highly valuable asset in modern warfare, and has led to increased use of systems designed to interrupt or jam the signal.

The challenge to protect GPS signal for mounted units is making headway, with armed forces investing in developing more secure anti-jam signals, and providing alternative data sources for navigating and targeting in the field in the event of signal loss. However, the challenge for the dismounted soldier remains, as many of the solutions under development and in use are too heavy to be of practical use. The dismounted soldier is also at a greater disadvantage in the urban area, where signal can be lost when a soldier enters a building and there is no clear line-of-sight with the GPS signal.

Dismounted close combat sensors

The UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is one of a number of organisations targeting this critical ga