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The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has unveiled a new wearable sensor technology designed to keep track of squaddies and prevent friendly fire incidents. Under development by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the Dismounted Close Combat Sensors (DCCS) system will allow commanders to track troops without GPS, while providing better situational awareness.

GPS navigation is only really useful in open country with a clear view of the sky to receive satellite signals. This means that soldiers patrolling built up areas, searching buildings, or entering tunnels are often at a sudden disadvantage. In addition, GPS signals can be spoofed or jammed, so even ideal conditions are no guarantee of reliability.

Dstl, in partnership with Roke Manor Research, QinetiQ, and Systems Engineering and Assessment, sees DCCS as a solution to not only the GPS problem, but as a system to detect threats, improve targeting capabilities, give commanders more accurate situational awareness, and better share information with troops.

According to newatlas.com, various technologies from across industry, academia, and beyond, were evaluated before developing and building the integrated wearable sensor system.

DCCS is a modular, multiple open-source system that conforms to the MoD’s Generic Soldier Architecture used to standardize military equipment requirements. It’s based on a core of GPS, Inertial Navigation System (INS), and video-tracking sensors that include lasers, dual-antenna GPS, a new thermal sight, shortwave infrared band for targeting, and integrated magnetic sensors.

For navigation, DCCS uses INS sensors that work the same way as the accelerometers and compass in a smartphone to calculate the soldier’s position based on speed and bearings from the last GPS fix. This is made more precise and accurate by also using visual cues, such as doors, windows, and signs from a helmet camera, which allows the system to calculate the individual’s position even in three dimensions.

By combining data from GPS, cameras, inertial sensors, and magnetic sensors mounted on a soldier’s weapon, commanders can not only see where someone is, but where their weapon is pointing. If troops are inadvertently targeting friendly forces, the commander can intervene before a tragedy occurs.

The combination of camera, lasers and orientation sensors mounted on the soldier’s personal weapon can highlight targets, such as troops, unmanned aerial vehicles, and aircraft, as well as civilians and the wounded, and can be seen by others equipped with the proper sensors. The spokesman says this method is a quicker and easier way to convey information than verbal instructions.

The targeting system also uses acoustic sensors that help the system automatically identify where gunfire is coming from and laser rangefinders to pinpoint locations even before the soldier is aware of them. Commanders can use information from many soldiers to form an accurate threat assessment and keep the troops informed as to how to deal with them.

The Mod sees DCCS as having a wide range of non-military applications, such as monitoring autonomous cars, emergency services inside buildings, or mine rescue workers underground. Though miniaturization and a number of issues still need to be addressed, DCCS is scheduled to see service sometime in the next decade.