Engineers At Vanderbilt Could Help Save Soldiers' Lives
by Kim Gebbia
Nashville, TENN-Thousands of soldiers deployed to Afghanistan each month arrive to unfamiliar terrain where IED's, snipers and insurgents put American lives on the line 24-7. Now, engineers at Vanderbilt University are using the science of sound in effort to help save troops' lives overseas.
"It is not the easiest thing to go out there and fight a war in the middle of that messy area," said Akos Ledeczi, engineer at Vanderbilt's Institute for Software and Integrated Systems.
Ledeczi led a team that developed technology that can measure the speed of sound on a soldier's helmet. This means when a sniper or insurgent fires at American troop, the various microphones on their helmet will measure the muzzle blast and sonic boom of the bullet. That information will be immediately transferred to a wireless PDA or laptop in a humvee and will tell troops exactly where the bullet came from along with the exact position of the shooter.
"It can tell the soldier this bullet missed you by two meters or two feet or 20 feet, which is obviously useful information to know if they are shooting at me or shooting at something else."
The information will be available one to two seconds after the initial shot fired. Troops can then look at the location and return fire, or call in tanks and artillery back up. This can be especially helpful in Afghanistan where buildings with several windows can easily disguise the location of an insurgent.
"If you are in an urban area with an insurgency it is difficult to tell where the shots are coming from," said Ken Pence, Associate Engineering Professor at Vanderbilt.
The technology was successfully tested at Fort Benning in Georgia. It is so precise it can show when the enemy moves just a few feet.
Pence adds, "It will not just show the window but the part of the window they were shooting from. "
Not only do these microphones show the exact trajectory of the bullet and location of the shooter, it can also reveal the caliber and type of weapon used.
"If somebody is shooting at me, I would be very interested to know if they are using my own weapons against me or weapons from a different manufacturer," Pence said.
It's a helmet that can eliminate the guess work in an already unfamiliar place coupled with the science of sound that could help soldiers return safe and sound.
Officials at The Department of Defense say this technology is also beneficial because it is lightweight. Troops already carry an estimated 150 pounds of equipment. It is also low-cost and can run off of double "A" batteries.