Futuristic communication for troops

Engineers at Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) are developing futuristic communications systems that could help protect frontline troops.

Their project, which builds on work completed recently for the UK Ministry of Defence, is investigating the use of arrays of highly specialised antennas that could be worn by combat troops to provide covert short-range person-to-person battleground communications.

It is hoped the technology developed in this project will lead to advanced wireless systems that would enable small squads of soldiers to share real-time video, covert surveillance data and tactical information with each other via helmet-mounted visors.

The Queen’s engineering team believes that the equipment would bring major benefits to members of the armed forces by providing high levels of situational awareness in hostile environments, as well as helping to preserve the element of surprise in close encounters with an enemy.

‘Through our work, we aim to overcome some formidable challenges as the proposed wireless devices will be expected to operate in a range of environments much more exacting than those encountered in civilian life,’ said lead researcher Simon Cotton of CSIT’s Radio Communications Research Group.

‘Despite this, they still need to be extremely reliable, efficient and resilient to jamming or interception and decryption by enemy forces. Our job is to help make them a reality by modelling how the devices would work in real life, how the signals would be transmitted to and from the body of each user and what types of antennas would be required to allow them to function properly.’

Cotton said that to do this, the team are modelling specific combat scenarios using state-of-the-art animation normally used to create computer games.

‘We believe that, ultimately, this work will lead directly to the development of new applications, not only for the military but also for the emergency services and the sports and entertainment markets,’ he said.