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U.S. Army Developing RFID System to Track Weapons Usage

In an effort to make sure ground vehicles' weapons are properly maintained, Benét Laboratories is working on a system using sensors and passive RFID tags to record the number of rounds fired.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 09, 2006The U.S. Army's Benét Laboratories is developing a prototype of an RFID system designed to track the rounds fired by a ground vehicle's guns. The first vehicle to demonstrate the sensor system will be the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank.

The sensor systems will include microelectromechanical sensors (MEMS) integrated with RFID tags to help the vehicle's operator track how many times a weapon has been fired. This allows the gunner to determine whether it can be depended on to function properly.


Patrick Esposito II
The first phase of the deployment, which will measure applied force, will focus only on using the MEMS sensors to count the rounds fired. However, according to Patrick Esposito II, president and chief operating officer of the project's lead integrator and developer, Augusta Systems, the MEMS sensors will eventually be used to measure a fired round's physical effects on the gun barrel as well, including the intensity of the applied force, heat and vibration.

"This will assist not only in counting the number of rounds fired, but also in recording the physical effects of the type of munitions fired in each instance, resulting in an accurate indication of the health and maintenance requirements of the barrel," Esposito says.

To date, vehicle and weapon operators have been required to log manually, on paper, how many times a weapon has been fired and the types of munitions used, then bring that information back to the vehicle maintenance depot. In this way, explains Esposito, "front line personnel have to record by hand what they're doing in a combat situation."

With the Augusta Systems solution, an operator can access the weapon-firing count on a tablet PC inside the vehicle. The tablet includes an RFID reader, and its data can be downloaded by Army personnel to keep a record of the weapon's firing history.

When a vehicle operator prepares the weapon for firing, the reader automatically sends an RF signal energizing the passive RFID tag, which transmits its unique RFID number and a count of each time the weapon has been fired. Several frequencies may be tested with this system; the air-interface protocol has not yet been determined.

The tablet PC will include integrated data storage, communications and display technologies. The MEMS will incorporate an RFID tag and a low-power microprocessor with limited memory, which would continue to record rounds fired even if the rest of the system were to fail.

American Science and Technology Corp. (AST) is providing the RFID passive tags to be embedded in the MEMS and attached to the weapon itself. The company will also provide the tablet PCs with RFID interrogators that will be used by operators inside the vehicle.

Augusta Systems will develop the system infrastructure, "including the data storage, data communications and information display components," says Esposito. Moreover, the firm is providing its SensorBridge software to develop the architecture for the monitoring system. The system, he adds, will be developed to integrate the RFID reader data and rapidly produce the electronic data cards.

According to Esposito, the prototype system is scheduled for demonstration in August 2007, with initial deployments planned for 2008.
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USER COMMENTS

Todd Edmondson 2007-03-28 05:58:39 PM
HERO Testing on the tags connected to to the weapons I was reading your article. Were you required to do any HERO testing.

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