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Intrusion-Detecting Sensors Protect Borders, Troops

Lockheed Martin and Textron each offer active wireless mesh-network systems to the military and private sector, to monitor movements or hazardous conditions.
By Claire Swedberg
As the gateway collects data from the sensor nodes, algorithm software characterizes the event and determines whether information should be sent to a predetermined location, in order to permit operators to determine how to respond. The system could also activate a video camera, for example, to record the event.

Textron MicroObserver sensor nodes are buried in the ground, says Charles Stuewe, Textron's director of unattended sensing solutions, with no part—including the antenna—visible above the surface. The nodes utilize battery power to operate a vibration sensor and transmit data to other sensor nodes, he says.

The MicroObserver solution has been commercially available since 2008, while two other products based on that technology have been recently released, but are not yet in use. Textron Defense Systems' Tactical Unattended Ground Sensor (T-UGS) and Urban Unattended Ground Sensor (U-UGS) were designed for the U.S. Army's Brigade Combat Team Modernization (BCTM) program in 2010. The MicroObserver product was developed by Crane Wireless Monitoring Solutions before Textron Systems acquired that company's sensor business in July 2010, to become part of Textron Defense Systems' intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance product offerings. T-UGS and U-UGS were developed as part of the Army's Future Combat Systems program, later renamed BCTM. According to Henry Finneral, Textron's VP of advanced weapons and sensors, the U.S. Army has delayed this program.

The T-UGS node is an outdoor intrusion-tracking sensor, while the U-UGS sensor is used indoors. Both types of nodes, Finneral says, were built for brigade combat teams, and could include acoustic sensors, as well as nuclear radiation, infrared emissions and ground-vibration sensors. However, he notes, the T-UGS and U-UGS nodes were never implemented as part of the BCTM program.

On the other hand, a vibration sensor based on MicroObserver technology—which, unlike the T-UGS node, was designed specifically for detecting vibrations only—continues to be used within the United States and Afghanistan. The transponders, planted underground, transmit a unique ID number via 2.4 GHz only in the event that a sensor detects an intruder. They send data up to several kilometers away, to another node or gateway, and that information is then forwarded to the Textron software managing the sensor data, which can issue an alert to a command center or other interested party.

One version of this "tactical node," powered by an internal battery with a 30-day lifetime, is approximately the size of a bar of soap. A larger version, measuring about 8 inches by 4 inches, includes a battery that lasts for about two years. The former version would be more likely to be installed at a site on which it was required only temporarily. Typically, Stuewe says, Textron delivers its sensor systems to the military and provides limited training required by the systems. The military then deploys them as necessary for its various missions, he adds, noting that specific mission data is typically not public knowledge.

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