December 5, 2007:
Army has developed a communications systems that basically creates a CCTV
(closed circuit television, or, more simply, security cameras) system over the
battlefield. It works like this. A battalion, or brigade commander scrounges up
as many UAVs (usually small ones, like Raven), gets them into the air over the
battle area, and a wireless network makes the images available to U.S.
commanders on their laptops or PDAs. Mapping software allows the video to be
shown with military map data overlayed.
The official terms for
this is HURT (Heterogeneous Urban Team.) RSTA stands for reconnaissance,
surveillance and target acquisition. OK, that's enough with the acronyms.
The idea behind HURT is to
make use of the "battlefield Internet" in ways that are most useful to
commanders. What commanders need most is real time, persistent views of the
battlefield. Thus HURT can take video, or other types of images (heat,
electronic) and make it available to commanders. By using all available UAVs
(and manned aircraft), if one of the sky cameras get shot down (or shut down by
a technical problem), another will quickly fill in, and the users on the ground
won't miss much. The key is software that efficiently combines all the
resources (UAVs, comm links) that are already available.
Getting real time aerial
views of the battlefield, continuously, is a tremendous advantage for the
ground commander. HURT was first demonstrated two years ago, and won't reach
the troops for several years. It will take that long for the system to be made
rugged and reliable for battlefield use.