HANOVER, N.H. - Inventors at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s (ERDC) Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) recently received a patent for sensor planning software tools designed to assist the U.S. Soldiers’ need to identify effective placement locations for sensors to accomplish their mission.
Led by Research Physical Scientist Dr. David “Keith” Wilson, the research team, consisting of CRREL’s Signature Physics Branch, received the patent for their “System for Modeling Intelligent Sensor Selection and Placement” in July 2019.
Wilson’s team included Rachel Romond, postdoctoral student; Jordan Bates, research computer scientist; John Gagnon, retired civil engineering technician; Lauren Waldrop, computer scientist; and Matthew Kamrath, research physical scientist.
The patent application abstract defines the “System for Modeling Intelligent Sensor Selection and Placement” as taking signal and sensor information and calculating a statistical inference. As signal data passes through a series of processors, it is transformed by functions to account for signal emission, sensor reception, environmental factors and noise. This produces a simulation of what the emitted signal would appear to be at a given sensor. The system may be used to select the most effective sensors or determine the best sensor coverage for a given area.
Wilson said that Environmental Awareness for Sensor and Emitter Employment (EASEE) is the name of the software developed at CRREL, which incorporates the patented "System for Modeling Intelligent Sensor Selection and Placement" technology.
“The general concept for EASEE goes back to 2009,” said Wilson. “In 2016, we began an extensive series of improvements to support signal models for complex environments in which 3-D atmospheric and terrain interactions are important.”
“For example, one might wish to simulate the impacts of the atmospheric wind field on sound propagation, or radio-frequency propagation through a region with mixed forest canopy and open terrain,” continued Wilson. “Most recently, we have begun incorporating time-dependent calculations, which are useful for modeling detection of moving sources such as an aircraft, or the dispersion of a chemical plume over time.”
Inventing ease-of-use Soldier tools
An ERDC team member for 17 years, Wilson used his doctoral expertise in acoustics along with a multidisciplinary background in physics, atmospheric science and electrical engineering to lead the development of the invention.
“I’m particularly fascinated by the challenges of representing complex physical systems using statistics and computational models. The development of EASEE meshed closely with those interests.
“Transmission of audible and visual signals has long been important in warfare. For example, Civil-War era Soldiers would often time an attack to the sound of distant cannon fire. Nowadays, with the explosive growth in networked sensors and communications, the ability to detect, process and rapidly act upon the information in signals is even more critical.
“Soldiers have so many things to learn and master nowadays. Employment of these technologies is also complicated by the dependence of their performance on the target type involved and on the weather and terrain conditions in which they operate,” Wilson said.
He explained that today’s software tools need to encompass researchers’ scientific and engineering expertise in a form readily accessible to Soldiers, “so they can choose the best sensors and place them in the best locations for accomplishing their missions, without necessarily understanding the details of the signal phenomenology and processing.”
Benefits to military, security operations
Wilson said that characterizing environmental effects on signal detectability and sensor performance is important to warfighters and others for planning and executing a great variety of military and security operations, including:
- planning ingress/egress routes for aircraft to minimize audibility and visibility of the aircraft (or maximizing detection of hostile forces and activities);
- laying out sensor networks for detecting and tracking threat ground vehicles, unmanned aircraft systems, and cruise missiles;
- selecting surveillance and reconnaissance assets to protect combat outposts and maneuvering units;
- detecting radio-frequency emissions from electronic equipment and improvised explosive device triggers;
- predicting radio communication distances;
- simulating new sensor systems and platforms with sensors, supporting the design and acquisition process; and
- mitigating noise from Army testing and training activities.
”Rather than creating stove-piped capabilities to address each of these individual needs, EASEE seamlessly integrates a system of signal propagation and sensor performance modeling tools that functions across all combinations and permutations of signal modalities, frequencies, terrain types and weather conditions.
“These tools are useful for planning across the strategic, operational and tactical domains and can be packaged into accessible, convenient interfaces for use by Soldiers, intelligence analysts, system engineers and the procurement community. The wide variety of models available in EASEE also enables users to appropriately balance computational fidelity and speed to their application,” Wilson said.