To prepare troops for combat, the Army and Marine Corps have been building large urban training facilities that resemble villages in Iraq and Afghanistan. As soldiers and Marines run through the course, instructors keep tabs on the action by video cameras and other sensors installed throughout the rooms. But these technologies capture a limited field of view. Trainers want to know exactly where each unit member is at all times, where the weapons and sights are pointed, and what position the person is in when he fires.
“That tracking technology is what we’re developing so that they can get more information from these training exercises,” says Mike Donfrancesco, vice president of sales and marketing at InterSense Inc, a Bedford, Mass.-based company that manufactures motion-tracking hardware frequently used in flight simulators and weapons trainers.
The company has been awarded a small business innovation research grant to develop a system to track soldiers and Marines as they proceed through the course. The optical-inertial system would fit on the weapons that troops carry in the exercise. The cameras will pick up passive markers, such as sprinklers or barcodes on a wall, and an on-board computer will triangulate locations to identify the weapon’s exact location. That information would be transmitted wirelessly, in real time, to the central processing unit, where instructors would watch the scenario unfold from a god’s eye view of the facility.
“They might use the information of where each one of the players are to alter the training scenario,” says Donfrancesco.
In current training facilities, sensors such as cameras, ultrasonic detectors or magnetic source technologies typically have to be permanently fixed to the building.
“This technology is getting away from that — it’s breaking that type of dependency on the infrastructure,” he says.