Virginia Tech studies battlefield wireless

Virginia Tech won a $246,000 Defense Department grant to create a testbed platform that will probe ways to integrate various kinds of battlefield wireless networks, research that could also help overcome interoperability problems that plague emergency workers and first responders.

The Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) grant is the only one awarded this year for research on wireless networks.

The DOD wants to develop a "network centric" communications infrastructure, pointed out Thomas Hou, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Virginia Tech and principal investigator on the DURIP project, but certain kinds of wireless networks can't yet talk to each other.

Mobile ad hoc networks are ideal for keeping military groups on the move connected to each other, while stationary wireless sensor networks relay valuable observational data from areas that are hostile to humans. Having the two kinds of network interoperate would have obvious advantages.

But they have developed along separate tracks and have fundamental differences in architecture and characteristics.

As well as studies into how these two kinds of networks can be integrated, Hou said, the testbed will also examine other issues such as wireless networking with smart antennas, video communication over ad hoc networks, and energy efficiency and network lifetime.

The results of these studies should also be applicable to network applications used for homeland security, law enforcement and anti-terrorism, he said.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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