Soldiers to get smarter with uniform-based antenna

BAE Systems has developed a system that can integrate vital battlefield communications technology into the fabric of a soldier’s uniform. 

The British defence contractor is calling the futuristic comms kit the Body Wearable Antenna and it is designed to lighten the load that combat troops have to carry and move away from the need for a traditional whip antenna. 

Historically, the “aerial” of the signaller has been an easy target for battlefield snipers and an effective way of disabling command and long-range communication. Integrating the antenna into the fabric worn by the troops, however, will give them a system that is less cumbersome and more discrete.

BAE also claims that is a better performer, offering 360-degree continuous coverage, aiming to avoid the problems encountered by lying on traditional antenna. Communications dropping out is a serious issue for troops and anything done to improve reliability will surely be welcomed.

The system isn’t just about replacing visible antenna, though. It can handle voice transmission, video feed from a helmet cam and GPS data all through the same wearable antenna, allowing the sort of remote monitoring seen on the Colonial Marines in Aliens.

BAE Systems believes that this could improve the situational awareness of soldiers, letting colleagues view the action unfolding in real time. The system links up to what BAE is calling a “commercially available touchscreen smartphone” (which appears to be a Nokia N900 in the infographic), allowing you to create an augmented operational picture, onto which objects - like potential IEDs sites or firing points - could be tagged. 

"Frontline soldiers carry a huge amount of weight when on patrol”, said Jon Pinto, Antennas and Electromagnetics group leader from BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre. “Research into body wearable antennas has shown we could reduce this burden and in the future give forces improved communication capabilities and a significant advantage on the battlefield.”

Connecting up the battlefield has been an area of interest for some time, aiming to improve the flow of information to assist in things like target identification, coordinating air support and reducing incidents of friendly-fire.

Exciting stuff - we can’t help wondering whether there will be a range of apps for your combat smartphone...