NATICK, Mass. (Jan. 7, 2015) – To the modern, dismounted warfighter, the saying “knowledge is power” is true, especially when making quick decisions based on limited information.
Scientists and engineers from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC, are working hard to make information assets a fundamental component of the Soldier’s kit.
“The ability to collect, process and share battlefield information can greatly improve the chances of mission success and troop survival,” said Dr. David Darkow, the Mission Information team leader with NSRDEC’s Warfighter Directorate.
Army researchers are developing a fully-integrated, mobile platform that provide dismounted Soldiers at the squad level with organic and shared sensor information to enhance situational awareness on the battlefield.
During a November 2014 experiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, Natick researchers teamed Soldiers with unmanned vehicles and brought Full Motion Video, or FMV, sensing sources to the Nett Warrior system — a smartphone-based device that supports advanced navigation, friendly-force tracking, command and control communications, and other sensor-fed information portrayals to Soldiers on the ground.
The Natick team developed the components that integrated with Nett Warrior’s software architecture. The system is scheduled to transition to the Army’s Project Manager Soldier Warrior where it will be one step closer to fielding.
The Nett Warrior Future Initiatives Team was key to ensuring the experiment resulted in the successful integration and transition of the FMV information portrayal concept into the Nett Warrior system, Darkow said.
“NSRDEC’s role is to improve the Soldier experience,” he said. “We provided support that helped transition the concept and we continue to support the NWFI team with its development by focusing on the Soldier’s perspective of the system.”
The team’s goal was to achieve full integration of various intelligence surveillance reconnaissance sensor feeds into the Nett Warrior platform to maximize the tactical information available, while supporting the broader objective of getting this capability into the hands of Soldiers at the squad level, he explained.
The NSRDEC Mission Information Team also linked video feeds from squad-organic sensors such as the Dragon Runner 20 Unmanned Ground Vehicle and the Cargo Pocket-Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, as well as an overwatch capability from Raven unmanned aerial vehicles.
To do this, Darkow’s team developed and incorporated into the Nett Warrior platform a mobile, plug-in software application, called the Tactical Video Viewer, which auto-populates what sensor feeds are available and links users to the source’s live video feed.
In this way, Nett Warrior “acted as a full-motion video server that rebroadcast those video streams on demand to other Soldiers in the squad,” Darkow said.
“Soldiers see a moving map application that displays blue (friendly)-force tracking, C2 (command and control) information, and full-motion ISR video feeds,” Darkow said. “Instead of just following dots on a map, Soldiers at the small unit and company levels can be viewing the same emerging battle space picture.”
More work is still needed to expand integration and control of battlefield sensors that will enhance the tactical information portrayal for viewing by dismounted Soldiers in austere environments, Darkow said.
“The team provided the first opportunity to put this emerging NSRDEC technology into a Soldier’s hands at the squad level within an operationally relevant context,” he said. “It went really well.”
The Tactical Video Viewer is scheduled to transition to Nett Warrior and Project Manager Soldier Warrior, where the system will be optimized for Soldier performance.