Reliable communications are almost as critical to the modern soldier as their weapons and ammunition. Conventional whip-antennas are not only cumbersome and conspicuous, but they don't always provide a reliable link between a soldier laying on the ground and one standing up. Meanwhile, the short antenna of a portable radio can mean the signal is masked by the user's body. To provide more reliable, continuous 360-degree radio coverage, BAE Systems has developed a series of Body Wearable Antennas (BWAs) that, like the experimental antenna system recently developed at Ohio State University, sees the antennas weaved into the fibers of a uniform.
The concept demonstrator developed by BAE not only provides 360-degree communications coverage whilst improving the agility of the soldier, it also transmits voice, video data from a helmet-mounted camera and GPS location information via the same antenna. BAE says such capabilities would improve the situational awareness of a military team as a whole by allowing soldiers to see through the eyes of their teammates in real time.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
The demonstration system developed by BAE also includes a commercially available touchscreen smartphone that is mounted on the wrist. Using the smartphone's GPS sensor, the positions on the various team members can be overlaid on a moving map. The team can also tag objects, such as potential hazards, that will appear highlighted on the phone's display.
"Frontline soldiers carry a huge amount of weight when on patrol. Research into body wearable antennas has shown we could reduce this burden and in the future give forces improved communication capabilities and a significant advantage on the battlefield," says Jon Pinto, Antennas and Electromagnetics Group Leader from BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre.
BAE Systems is also exploring non-military uses of the technology. It is currently looking at the potential to incorporate BWAs into the suits of fire-fighters for use in search and rescue operations, for police patrol members to keep a track of colleagues on the street, and in other hazardous industries, such as mining, oil and gas.