By Henry Kenyon
In its ongoing efforts to eliminate the fog of war, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is planning to develop battlefield networking technologies that will connect individual soldiers, even where there is no infrastructure.
The goal of the agency’s recently announced Advanced Wireless Networks for the Solider program is to create a highly scalable and adaptable tactical communications network that can adapt to changing conditions and mission needs. DARPA wants to build its new network around advanced soldier radios that can automatically adjust their frequency, modulation scheme, operating power and network topology, especially at the physical and link layers.
In its announcement, DARPA stated that the AWNS program will seek to use the best parts of commercial technologies to ensure rapid updates at low cost to the government. The program’s research will also compliment and build upon ongoing work in the agency’s Wireless Network after Next program.
The AWNS effort is built around four research activities. It will use WNaN development as the baseline for platform integration; integrate defense specific communications technologies such as WNaN hardware, firmware and networking software; take advantage of commercial technologies; and integrate advanced data processing network services.
Besides developing a variety of networking and waveform technologies, AWNS is part of a larger DARPA effort that includes WNaN to develop a cognitive radio that automatically adapts to its environment. As a part of this work, AWNS will work on a system strategy reasoner, which will select the radio’s most efficient operating mode for its environment, adapt local links and larger networks to minimize interference, minimize battery use, select appropriate antennas on the soldier to maximize performance and choose modes to minimize bit error or packet error rates. AWNS will also integrate smart antenna technology into the WNaN radio.