Robert Pazda says his team within the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center is accustomed to having to fit 10 pounds of equipment into a five- pound bag. But his team's latest project – the Global Strike Near Real Time Battle Data Assessment System – could change all that.
"The Army always wants everything smaller, lighter," said Pazda, the branch chief for Electronic Design Integration within the Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division of the center's Engineering Directorate. His team focuses on integrating electronic parts that comprise state-of-the-art devices.
The Global Strike NRT-BDA System incorporates unattended sensors and a remote warfighter interface to provide timely reporting of conditions during reconnaissance operations. One sensor includes a chemical agent detector similar in shape and size to a two-pound soda can. The sensors are intended to be air deployed and have been tested from a P-3 Orion aircraft at 1,000 feet. The sensor is equipped with an accelerometer, which triggers the release of the cap and small parachute (ballute). Once it lands, spring- loaded legs pop open, allowing it to sit upright.
The detector is also equipped with a GPS tracking device. Once the detector has landed and the position remains the same, the device initiates the start sequence of the detector so it can detect chemical agents and other threats, in addition to seismic activity. This detector, which was a redesign of the Joint Chemical Agent Detector, can feed information to a satellite and then to soldiers manning a warfighter interface as far as a few thousand miles away.
One of the earlier challenges with the Global Strike NRT-BDA was fitting all three antennas onto a circuit board that was 2.25-inches in diameter. It contained a GPS antenna for location purposes, an iridium antenna that sends information up to a satellite, and a short-range communications antenna. In a later design the short-range communication antenna was no longer required. "It's a pre or post assessment tool," Pazda said. "You could drop it and know something is there and strike, or you know something's there and avoid the area."
ECBC has collaborated with other organizations to design sensors and other parts that the Electronic Design and Integration Branch incorporated into the device. They worked with ECBC's Engineering Design and Analysis Branch, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, Air Force Research Laboratory, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Kansas State University and Smith's Detection.
There are still challenges to overcome for extended operational time. Currently, the device will last four to six hours, but the goal is to have it monitor its surroundings for several days. The Global Strike NRT-BDA has displayed survivability with plans for improvement. Pazda said the biggest challenge his team faces is rapidly changing technology.
"My world is challenging. We do so much with electronic wizardry, but people don't realize the tens of millions of dollars that were invested in things like cell phones that took decades to perfect what we have today. That's the challenge in this electronic age, to keep up with technology since things happen at a very quick pace," Pazda said.
He noted that the first transistor was invented in 1948, and the first integrated circuit was created in 1951. In 15 years, the world has gone from cell phones to smart phones with internet functionality, to cameras and applications that can do just about anything. With the increasing pace of advances in technology, there is a greater push to keep up with the latest generation of technological changes that go along with those advances.