Imaging and C2 Systems for the Warfighter – at Soldiertech 2007


The latest display systems introduced for modern soldier systems incorporate miniature ‘near-eye’ transparent viewers and hand-held displays, offering wide field of view, efficient visibility in daylight conditions and covert, NVG compatible display at night time. Among the latest transparent eyepieces are the mini displays produced by Rockwell CollinsLiteye and Vuzix. Among the new displays shown at the exhibition Defense Update spotted the ProView SO35-MTV from Rockwell Collins, a transparent micro-viewer which displays a near-eye, wide field of view picture with minimal vision obstruction.

The ‘see-through’ viewer is clipped to standard Oakley M-Frame military approved eyewear with fully adjustable viewing angle allowing the display to be moved above or below the line of sight to increase situational awareness. The device weighs about 50 grams, and is compatible with the left or right eye. It can be operated in daylight or at night, delivering monochrome green SVGA display at a resolution of 800×600 or VGA at 640×480.

A different input device developed by Vuzix Tactical Display Group is a TacEye miniature eyepiece that can be attached to standard goggles to form a 800×600 SVGA head mounted display. The TacEye runs for five hours on a single rechargeable lithium battery, supporting operating modes from full daylight to total darkness, where special filters are used to interface with the goggles and minimize leaks that can indicate the warfighter’s position to the enemy.

ITL Optronics from Israel displayed an integrated hand-held controller and display system, designed for day or night operations. The device weighs only 300 grams and uses high resolution OLED mini display from eMagin; an integrated line-of-sight sensor enables automatic image or map orientation. Built-in mouse buttons provide an interface with the computer.

Jeffrey Paul, program manager at DARPA responsible for the Multispectral Adaptive Networked Tactical Imaging System (MANTIS) program introduced this breakthrough program, which aims to improve the soldier’s night vision capability through integration of advanced sensing and processing technologies. MANTIS studies the benefits multi-spectral fusion performed on the helmet or hand held viewer, using an advanced ‘system on a chip’ processor. The system will improve the soldier’s ability to see at night, under difficult visibility conditions including typical urban ambient lights (light bulbs, fires, car lights etc.), under moonless or cloudy skies, penetrating through smoke, fog, dust and flares. The system will also support video sharing trough ‘picture in picture’ functionality.

Command and Control Systems

New versions of Cobham’s Integrated Digital Soldier System (IDSS) were displayed at Soldier Technology 07. The company demonstrated the latest version of its Battlehawk situational awareness and communications software and a new wrist worn display called MDT. In addition to standard time display (watch), it can also display a plan position indicator with two range scales, showing relative locations of team members and targets. The device can also show incoming text messages, or heading indication (compass rose).

Thales UK unveiled at Soldier Technology 07 its new MILTRAK, a command and control unit designed for infantry teams. MILTRAK comprises a navigation module, and a separate display system used primarily by leaders. It uses a simple interface, similar to the older designs used mobile phones, to provide navigation, situational awareness (SA) picture and short text messages.

The Eurotech Group launched at Soldier Technology 07, the Zypad, a rugged wearable computer built with hardened mechanical design optimized for field uses. The device can be adapted to run at different application levels, such as ‘basic’, mission and ’emergency’. The Zypad supports an integral 640×480 pixel VGA display with 256 colors and an overlaid touch screen. It supports bluetooth Class 2 communications of ZigBee as well as 802.11 wireless LAN. It also integrates a 16 channel GPS receiver and DGPS device, accelerometers, electronic compass and biometric ID.

Elbit Systems unveiled its latest, and most compact wearable computer system designated ‘Terminal’. This is a modular computer system powered by an RMI dual processor running Windows CE operating system. The Terminal computer provides high quality graphics, supporting two simultaneous 1920×1200 pixel displays, including a direct interface to the OLED (VESA). The system has a modest power consumption of only 6.5 watts, supplied by two hot swappable external Lithium Polymer batteries sustaining continuous 4-5 hours of operation. This modular computer weighs 0.7 kg (excluding batteries) and provides the heart of the new IDF command and control system for dismounted operations (also known as Dominator or Integrated Advanced Soldier – IAS). In this configuration, Terminal is used as a wearable computer coupled with a hand held display, a radio (PRC710), eyepiece display and headsets, mobile Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) and navigation system. All elements are embedded into a wearable system and armor vest weighing less than five kilograms.

GPSless Navigation

GPS independent navigation has posed a significant challenge for modern soldier systems, particularly when engaged with urban operations, where GPS coverage is not available. Several systems already offer solutions to this problem. Draper developed the Personal Positioning System (PPS) in response to the US Army requirement for Personal Navigation System, required to provide autonomous, uninterrupted position, location and attitude reference in GPS-challenged signal environment. This robust suite is currently in prototype phase. A similar system is also under development in Israel, by Elbit Systems, for the Israeli Integrated Advanced Soldier (IAS) program. This navigation system will enabling effective navigation in areas where GPS cannot be relied upon. The system uses a combination sensors, such as gyro, compass, accelerometers and barometric pressure sensor, to determine the location of the unit (distance travelled and direction) relative to the last confident GPS reference point. The system is attached to the soldier’s gear and will continue to determine accurate location for several hours after GPS contact is lost. Its accuracy is determined as a function of the distance traveled without GPS reference. It is effective throughout the soldier’s combat activities, including running, walking, crawling or sprinting. The system weighs about 100 grams and is calibrated to reflect the individual soldier’s activities using his personal identification identification tag.

Topics covered in Soldiertech 2007 review: