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Unmanned Ground Sensor most cutting edge footstep sensor

Pathfinder Expendable Unattended Ground Sensors


Modern conflicts frequently require small regular forces to prevent intrusions or attacks by irregular forces that move stealthily at night or over remote terrain. Regular forces must simultaneously protect their own very vulnerable bases and monitor a huge area of possible infiltration.


In December 2014, Army Contracting Command, acting for PM Ground Sensors and the MCOE, requested information from industry on a better UGS. The Army wants a system of buried detectors, a receiver, soldier-carried display, cabling and antennas. The improved UGS would last at least four months doing 50 daily detections on off-the-shelf batteries. And the new UGS should detect low-flying aircraft and tunnel diggers along with personnel and vehicles. In addition, the Army wants sensors that weigh less than 10 ounces and cost less than $500.

Vendors have been active in improving a variety of UGSs.

For example, EPE distributes in Australia and New Zealand the next-generation of EUGS, Pathfinder, developed by the U.S.’s Applied Research Associates. ARA sells EUGS and Pathfinder directly to U.S. and other customers.

A seismic UGS to detect humans, Pathfinder incorporates lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq to be “the most cutting-edge footstep detection sensor on the market,” says EPE Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Manager Dean Dickson. “Pathfinder is the world leader in expendable, affordable and undetectable security and protection.” The primary user of Pathfinder to date has been the U.S. Army.

Pathfinder sensors capture movement, and their effectiveness thus depends on how well users understand threats. The more users know about how threats operate, the more Pathfinder will help determine intent.

Pathfinder deprives threats of surprise and manoeuvers by covertly detecting, identifying and monitoring activities, movements, route networks and key locations. Users can then choose when and where to interdict threats, apparently by accident so adversaries do not know they have been observed.

Dickson says Pathfinder has been successful in military operations, border security, fighting narcotics trafficking and terrorism, protecting infrastructure, controlling refugees, private security, searches and rescues.

Pathfinder success in remote areas is partly due to radio communication that transmits information over ground up to 15 kilometers and in the air over 25km, packaging data to be undetectable to frequency-spectrum analyzers and similar equipment. And open architecture facilitates easy integration with ISR tools for slew-to-cue, fly-to-cue and cue-to-target functions.

The newest Pathfinder incorporates a number of improvements: miniature and extra-large variants; extended battery life, up to eight months for the mini and 24 months for the extra-large; machine-learning algorithms; better signal processing for better detection and fewer false alarms; and a micro-receiver for mobile, dismounted operations. This new micro-receiver can display all information on any Android or iOS device, including the Android Tactical Assault Kit and iPhone Tactical Assault Kit.

Users can scan Pathfinder sensors when emplaced to populate data such as GPS location and later access data such as sensor status, performance, detection, and distance to threats.

Dickson stresses that Pathfinder’s radio communication enables long-range transmission, even in non-line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight urban, rural and other conditions, without gateways or relays. Pathfinder is also quick and thus safe to emplace. And the device is both low cost and expendable, yet has an extended battery life.

ARA hopes to add more capabilities in the coming year. Programmable detection radii would allow users to push a button to tailor detection radii for mission requirements. ARA wants to improve machine-learning algorithms to make Pathfinder smarter. And it is working on algorithms to detect not just people, but vehicles such as all-terrain vehicles.

Digital Barriers offers the Remote Detection and Classification sensor. RDC is a battery-powered, wireless sensor for detecting both intrusions by people at distances from 20 and 70 meters and intrusions by vehicles up to 100 meters, and classifying the intrusion as one or the other. Marketing Director Maria Clutterbuck says RDC has high detection rates and low false-alarm rates, proven in many different environments for different applications.

Weighing less than half a kilogram, RDC is also, “highly portable, and quick to deploy and set up,” Clutterbuck notes. For communication, its self-forming, self-healing mesh network is field-proven over many years of operation and extremely reliable. It has a long battery life, four to six months on a single D cell, requires low power for radio communications and is designed to be very robust.

Distinctively, RDC uses an internal antenna that performs as well as an external antenna but is more robust and covert when deployed. “Nodes can be deployed just below ground level for complete concealment,” Clutterbuck says. And communication over an internal, rather than external, antenna eliminates vulnerability to wind, which can reduce detection and increase false alarms.

RDC’s sensor node also has a unique screw-thread design that secures the node in the ground, which reduces susceptibility to wind movements. And it makes unauthorized removal difficult. “A special tool is required to deploy and remove it,” Clutterbuck explains.


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