Company looks to reduce bulk of soldiers’ comms systems

Cambridge Consultants’ new radio architecture could reduce the size of multi-platform communication systems used by troops.

In recent years, defence organisations have invested in a variety of custom radio systems, using many different types to perform certain tasks. ‘None of this kit quite communicates with each other,’ said Tim Phipps, wireless homeland security business development manager at Cambridge Consultants.

Attempting to get all these different radio systems to cooperate through one device and provide seamless communications is a major challenge as they each employ different frequencies, modulation speeds and data speeds.

‘The military used to buy single-function radios, which were very good at doing one thing but over the years they’ve built up a lot of this kit and they can’t just throw it away,’ said Phipps.

Software-defined radios (SDRs) are able to integrate different communication systems so they all work through one device. However, they are bulky, heavy devices that are hard to transport.

Phipps said a more compact SDR would enable a ground soldier to communicate seamlessly with aircraft, marine vessels and other soldiers.

Cambridge Consultants’ new ModStar architecture would simplify radio waves as much as theoretically possible.

‘You send a phase signal to a synthesiser that synthesises the final frequency and then you send the amplitude component through an amplitude modulator that modulates that frequency with the desired amplitude,’ said David Freeborough, head of the radio frequency group at Cambridge Consultants.

As a result of simplifying the radio waves the overall power consumption of the SDR is significantly reduced. This is important because it means batteries can be made much smaller, lessening the weight burden on the average soldier, who is being asked to carry more and more batteries each year, said Phipps.

This technology has already been applied to the mobile phone market to solve the issue of phones operating on different systems (2G/3G/4G), which could restrict people making calls when they were abroad.

‘The opportunity, as we saw it, was to repeat this design innovation. Take consumer thinking and move it into the military space,’ said Phipps.

‘We’re looking to partner with somebody who can put the idea into production,’ he added. ‘We would like to talk to manufacturers of software-defined radio equipment.’