Marines monitoring mission progress inside the representative Combat Operations Center (COC) during the Perceptive Dragon II demonstration.

Integrated Early Warning Sensors Provide Real-Time Battlefield Updates

Integrated Early Warning Sensors Provide Real-Time Battlefield Updates

By Shawn Nesaw

On a dreary, muddy morning in Quantico, Virginia, researchers from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Chemical Biological Center led several demonstrations of chemical biological (CB) integrated early warning (IEW) technology during Perceptive Dragon II.

IEW technology uses data from specialized sensors to provide warfighters and decision makers with valuable information related to the battlefield, threat level and threat probability.
Perceptive Dragon I brought together new technologies for CB IEW and Perceptive Dragon II continued the effort, looking to accomplish two main goals — use IEW technology to deliver battlefield information to the Marines and relay that information to Army units in a coordinated effort.

“It’s easy to demonstrate a system’s capacity in a room with all the proper connections and technology in one place,” said Maj. John Williams II, assistant product manager for science and technology portfolio integration at CCDC Chemical Biological Center. “It’s something quite different to run a successful, real-to-life demonstration in the mud and rain. That’s when you know you’ve got something that works.”

During Perceptive Dragon II, systems engaged in a routine reconnaissance mission and an incoming fire situation which created an indirect plume of unidentified material. In both situations, IEW systems communicated information through the chain of command quickly, allowing for efficient decision making.

The demonstration utilized multiple sensors including a chemical sensor mounted on a Deep Purple unmanned aerial vehicle, Firefinder radars, a simulated light detection and ranging sensor, and radiological and nuclear point detectors. All of these sensors fed data to warfighters, providing them with better situational awareness.

“The data was fed back to the Marines and up the chain of command, giving everyone involved a picture of the battlefield in real-time,” said Williams. “Both the software and the sensors pushed that early information up the chain of command so the right decisions could be made at each level.”

The software and hardware necessary to provide this level of sophistication and coordination was developed by a team of experts at the CCDC Chemical Biological Center.

“The tricky part is how to coordinate and deliver the same information at the same time, to all the units, in different locations but working towards the same mission objective, so everyone involved can react accordingly,” said Williams.

The technology showcased during Perceptive Dragon II impacts three Army modernization priorities:

  • Next-generation combat vehicles could integrate more robust, accurate sensors within vehicle design.
  • The fast and reliable information dissemination to the common operating picture provides greater situational awareness, ultimately increasing Soldier lethality.
  • As new ways to adapt and procure new technologies to allow for faster, independent, mobile information sharing solutions for Soldiers in disconnected or limited bandwidth environments are considered, Perceptive Dragon II will influence the Integrated Tactical Network Cross Functional Team.

In the past, Perceptive Dragon demonstrations were focused on CB IEW for large installation locations. In these most recent demonstrations, the focus was the battlefield where a decentralized command structure must be addressed effectively. Units at various echelons from different armed services must be interconnected through a tactical network of radio and other sensor devices allowing leaders in each unit to see the same common operating picture at the same time.

When a deployed sensor transmits an update of a chemical threat, the CB IEW software is capable of providing information about that threat up the chain of command and onto all units common operating pictures as an overlay. All the good guys are on the same page.

Perceptive Dragon demonstrations are a coordinated effort among multiple services that allow leaders and stakeholders a chance to see the IEW technology applied in the field, usually for a specific service, such as the Marines or Air Force.

“Perceptive Dragon II demonstrated how IEW systems are meeting the needs of multiple services and how the technology can provide a shared understanding of the battlefield makeup, up the chain of command to inform decision makers,” said Williams.

“By leveraging current technology, missions can be completed more effectively and efficiently,” explained scientist Fiona Narayanan, Battlefield Integration Branch chief. “We observed challenges in sending data fast and frequent from multiple sensors in a battlefield scenario using the currently fielded technology so we set out to utilize current technology to work harder and smarter through upgrades and software development. Now, it’s easy to press a button and send the information quickly and reliably.”

The technology is still in the testing and demonstration phase. At each stage, more information, technology and capability is added on to previous versions.

While not every piece of the demonstration is being fielded at the present, specific parts are in the transition phase. The DragonEye Toolkit, the software used to correlate events and enable systems to talk to each other, is transitioning to Joint Project Managers Information Systems.

Additionally, some of the code in the DragonEye Toolkit is being used with nuclear biological chemical reconnaissance vehicle sensor suite upgrades which will be on display at Joint Warfighter Assessment 19, occurring April 2019.

Marines monitoring mission progress inside the representative Combat Operations Center (COC) during the Perceptive Dragon II demonstration.