Battlefield Satellite Tracking
A small device using commercial hardware and satellite
networking can provide soldiers with real-time position
location and communications. The enhanced mobile satellite
system (EMSS) beacon and a position location information
(PLI)-based tracking device were placed on a maneuver platoon to give near real-time position and location of personnel and assets as part of the U.S. Army’s Network Integration
Evaluation (NIE) process.
About the size of a hockey puck, the technology can be
integrated with the Army’s Nett Warrior system. Nett Warrior features chest-mounted communications technology
using off-the-shelf Android smartphones that, for now, have
had their commercial cellular and Wi-Fi capabilities disabled
but come with downloaded, mission-specific apps that operate via military radios. The EMSS beacon can provide troops
with a critical communications lifeline via the commercial
satellite network that provides global tracking capabilities.
The system was developed by Iridium Communications
Incorporated, which participated in the NIE this year for
the first time.
In 2013, Iridium received a $400 million multiyear
fixed-price contract with the Defense Information Systems
Agency to provide satellite airtime services to meet U.S.
Defense Department communications needs.
NASA Aids Air Traffic Management
The Federal Aviation Administration has received from
NASA a new software tool designed to aid air traffic controllers. The Terminal Sequencing and Spacing (TSS) technology will enable air traffic controllers to better manage the spacing between aircraft as they fly more efficient
approaches into airports, saving both time and fuel and
reducing emissions. TSS is another step in NASA’s support
of the development of a Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, which is a joint multi-agency and
industry initiative to modernize and upgrade the nation’s
air traffic control system.
The software enables the routine use of performance-based navigation procedures, resulting in fewer course
and altitude changes, while also reducing the frequency of
necessary communications between controllers and pilots.
The TSS tool provides information to controllers about
the speeds they should assign to aircraft as they follow
fuel-efficient, continuous-descent arrival procedures while
passing through a region of airspace surrounding an airport
known as the Terminal Radar Approach Control, covering a
distance from an airport of about 50 miles.
NASA’s Airspace Systems Program, which is part of the
agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, began
the research that led to the development of TSS in 2009,
with prototype development beginning in 2011. NASA
U.S. Navy and DARPA Tern Partners
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has teamed with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to develop a program to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnais-
sance and strike mobile targets—anywhere, anytime.
While technology to conduct such missions already
exists, limitations make paramount the new efforts, first
researched by DARPA and called the Tactically Exploit-
ed Reconnaissance Node (TERN).
Helicopters are limited by distance they can cover
and by flight times; and while fixed-wing manned and
unmanned aircraft fly farther and longer, they need
either aircraft carriers or bases for landing and takeoff.
The new cooperative program envisions using smaller
ships as mobile launch and recovery sites for medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial systems. The
program aims to advance technology to enable a full-scale, at-sea demonstration of a prototype unmanned
system from a vessel with the same deck size as an
Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
The DARPA/ONR Tern program seeks to develop long-
endurance unmanned reconnaissance systems that
can be launched from and retrieved on small Navy
ships such as an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
DARPA and the Navy have signed a memorandum of
agreement to make the program a joint effort and have
given it the new name of Tern. The first two phases of the
program focus on preliminary design and risk reduction
for the system. In phase three, one of five contractors likely
will be selected to build a full-scale demonstrator Tern
system for ground-based testing, culminating in an at-sea
demonstration of launch and recovery.