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One platform, one army

By [email protected] - 6th January 2016 - 13:09

In modern warfare, access to real-time reliable data over secure data links is paramount to thesuccess of a military operation. Soldiers on the ground and command-and-control need to be geospatially aware by having an uninterrupted instant voice and data communication to successfully engage in conflicts.

On the battlefield, it all comes down to access to good data (geospatial awareness), reliable and secure communication, and coordination. It’s imperative for soldiers to have knowledge about the terrain and the objects such as buildings that are located within it. This information can in turn help combatants navigate and make better predictions as to where the enemy might confront them.

The solution is a single platform to replace the current set-up of multiple radio devices. After all, the soldier on the ground has to be highly mobile, so having light and small devices will go a long way towards improving speed and flexibility.

Geospatial devices were essentially developed to build geospatial databases with information pertaining to the area as well as the shape and size of the objects within it. This data can be accessed to develop operational maps and manage vital enterprise content. By incorporating software defined radio (SDR) technology, a soldier can use the device across several platforms efficiently and reliably, ensuring uninterrupted, secure communication and geospatial intelligence.

SDR in the military

SDR entered the defence market because it eliminated the need to have hardwired mechanisms to perform functions such as encoding/decoding, as well as modulation/demodulation. SDR is growing in popularity as it provides much more flexibility: the software can be changed or reprogrammed without making any physical modifications to the hardware. Depending on the change, this might require a new application to be launched, similar to opening a new program on a computer, or could be automatically programmed into the firmware as an alert or trigger by a digital engineer.

The software that’s introduced into an SDR is intended to be adaptable while enabling complete (re)configuration of the functions – both protocols and physical layer formats – of the radio. All these functions can be reprogrammed without modifying the physical hardware. This essentially makes it easier to perform tasks such as changes in frequencies, migration, and modulation schemes.

The military depends on adaptability, clarity, interoperability, precision and speed. SDRs have had a major impact as they provide not only standard two-way communication, but also secure wireless nodes that incorporate an encryption layer with very low latency, point-to-point links. They also engage with a number of different devices concurrently while acting as a communications repeater.

The military is actively engaged in various surveillance operations. This surveillance of communication can be done on several different frequencies like HF, VHF, and UHF using the available toolsets. These toolsets depend on the type of SDR and can be as easy as a web interface or as complicated as developing a new software program. Now you can also operate on several different protocols, such as GSM, CDMA, LTE, WiFi and Bluetooth. This creates a flexible device and system for military personnel as they can tune into one of the preferred frequencies and support more than one protocol. They can also monitor a large portion of the spectrum while supporting multiple protocols.

Cognitive radios

SDRs are now evolving into cognitive radios, through the development of automatic actions based on sensory information, with distributed architecture that enables multi-intelligence fusion. As a result, it provides a network-centric operations solution for devices with mobile platforms, web browsers and communicators. This technology can be used to process information, share data, model and analyse information, and visualise geospatial and metadata across defence networks. In other words, with a massive amount of imagery and data coming through, a robust network and device is essential to efficiently handle the influx of data.

SDR from a geospatial perspective can be used to gather intelligence, perform terrain and defence-related analyses, and operational planning by accessing the geospatial database on the network. By accessing the imagery, soldiers can have an accurate idea of the terrain and enemy bases. Further, coordinated attacks can be conducted successfully with efficient communication and transfer of vital data. Devices such as Per Vices’ Crimson SDR, come with SFP+ connectors and high-speed interfaces built in to achieve maximum throughput of data. Further, these radio and tactical intelligence products come with the option of customisation which in turn broadens the scope of what can be accomplished with one device.

Geospatial intelligence

With fast and adaptable access to military networks, geospatial intelligence is now possible. By accessing geospatial data, military operations can easily integrate different defence components easily. With data on which radios and nodes function, SDRs today can be used by applications to display 3D and 2D plots of the spectrum as detected by the radio in real-time, through custom application development.

By completely integrating geospatial capabilities and imagery, the soldier on the ground can depend on crucial intelligence and support. Before technology made this possible, various components of the defence apparatus were separate entities and this made it difficult to perform tasks such as mapping or collecting imagery intelligence. In modern warfare, there are usually several organisations involved, and reliable and secure communication is what enables all these different entities to work efficiently together. Battalions that effectively manage geospatial data and the fusion of geospatial and intelligence data can easily perform sophisticated visualisations and analyses in real-time with the appropriate software. As a result, soldiers can be prepared and make better decisions much faster, while engaged with the enemy.

Device installations and environment

The defence industry is made up not only of soldiers on the battle front but also hundreds of departments and thousands of military personnel. As a result, SDR and geospatial technologies can be used to make tasks, such as resource planning, utility management and logistics, much easier through a flexible platform that receives information on multiple frequencies and displays the received data .

Before the emergence of SDR, it was difficult to work across different disciplines as it required significant coordination between departments, installations and workers. Now it can also be used to manage the environment and the defence infrastructure by efficiently sharing information independently of the frequency of operation.

Precision engagement

Modern soldiers have the capability to be spatially aware, with access to reliable data. They will have a good understanding of the relationship between themselves, the enemy, and the terrain. This enables them to make vital decisions in a timely manner. They can also better understand their situation and communicate it effectively to other personnel. By using an SDR device to maintain signals with sensors, they can receive a better operational and tactical picture in real-time.

SDR technology is now small, light and highly mobile, and plays an important role in performing precision airstrikes by communicating precise information. By communicating the data to an engaged system, soldiers can have the desired effect while in battle. By effectively communicating precise information, armies can also reduce collateral damage. As a result, SDR will be at the core of all future military operations.

Stephanie Chiao is product marketing manager at Per Vices

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