Sensors Aren't Just In The Air

The military has its eyes in the skies -- MQ-1 Predators, Global Hawks and other airborne surveillance systems all the way up to orbiting satellites – but it also has ears to the ground.

And even if unattended ground sensors themselves lack the electronic eyes of their high-flying counterparts, the data they collect does, in fact, translate into visuals – people, animals, trucks, cars – and give the good guys a heads up on where they’re headed, according to Todd Kulik, manager of ground systems business development for Textron Defense Systems in Lowell, Mass.

"They basically detect targets seismically and pass the information on the targets over a line-of-sight radio to an operator," he told Defense Tech during the recent Modern Day Marine Expo at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

Textron's Tactical and Urban Ground Sensor systems were on display at Quantico, but they’re being readied for primetime for the Army. After successful testing and approval of its Tactical and Urban Ground Sensor system by the Defense Acquisition Board last year, Textron began low-rate initial production of them as part of the Army's Brigade Combat Team Modernization program.

The company says it expects to deliver the systems to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division in 2011. In addition to setting up a sensor field to monitor the comings and goings of personnel and vehicles along a road or area, they also could be set up for perimeter security.

Kulik said an operator can monitor what's happening in the sensor field on a laptop, and even see what's moving there. The sensor nodes that together create the sensor field and feed info through a central or "gateway" node are sensitive enough to translate what it picks up into recognizable images that appear on the operator’s computer screen as icons.

"And the icons here represent a person or vehicle  ... And then you can see the sensor field, so you can see where your unattended ground sensors are deployed," Kulik said.

 -- Bryant Jordan

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