Body-wearable antennas could lighten a soldier’s load

BAE Systems has developed a series of body wearable antennas that have been designed to reduce the load that soldiers have to carry while providing them with a high level of battlefield information and connectivity.

According to the defence company, the body-wearable antenna (BWA) allows soldiers to communicate with colleagues on the front line without the need for conventional radio whip-antennas, which can be cumbersome and conspicuous.

By weaving the antennas into the fibres of the uniform the technology allows effective communication while helping improve agility.

A concept demonstrator has been developed to showcase the capability of this technology, which transmits voice, video data (from a helmet-mounted camera) and GPS location via the same antenna.

According to BAE Systems, a system using this technology could improve the situational awareness of a military team as a whole: if one soldier spots a situation, they can alert the team and share what they can see through their helmet-mounted camera.

The demonstration system links with a wrist-mounted commercially available touch-screen smart phone and utilises its sensors to provide an augmented operational picture, allowing the team to tag objects, such as potential hazards, which will appear highlighted on a phone’s video image.

Another advantage of the wearable antenna system is that it is unaffected by the position of the wearer. With conventional whip-antenna systems, if a soldier has to lie on the ground, the communication between them and someone who is standing up can be severely compromised or even lost.

Similarly, the signal from the short antenna on a portable radio can be masked by the user’s body. A BWA system can be designed to give continuous 360° coverage.

Jon Pinto, antennas and electromagnetics group leader from BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre, said: ‘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.’

BAE Systems says it is exploring the potential to incorporate body-worn antennas into the suits of firefighters for use during search and rescue, for police patrol team members to have the GPS locations of colleagues and in other hazardous industries such as mining, oil and gas.