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By Adam Baddeley, Deputy Editor, BATTLESPACE

14 Sep 05. In the last six months, Rockwell Collins has made considerable progress in the provision of Soldier Modernisation Programme (SMP) technology according to Phil Froom, Marketing Manager for UK Primes at Rockwell Collins UK (RC UK). As evidence of this, the company has recently been asked to supply its UK subsidiary’s DRAGN (Dead Reckoning Augmented GPS Navigator) system to the Future Integrated Soldier Technology (FIST) V2 trials, scheduled to start in the first week of October and end in late November, this builds on the earlier supply of its Kaiser Electro-Optics division sourced SO-35 Helmet Mounted Display to the trials.

“Rockwell Collins is bringing C4I support to the soldier. We are very prominent in the Land Warrior programme where we are bringing three primary C4I technologies to that platform; the Helmet Mounted Display, Daylight Video Sight and Global Positioning System (GPS). We are now hoping to support the UK FIST Programme by offering these same technologies to Europe by integrating these selective capabilities into UK and other European SMP programmes,” explained Froom.

Navigation systems are arguably Rockwell Collins most successful ground based product, Rockwell Collins being one of the biggest supplier of military GPS systems in the world. This success will continue to be based on GPS, but the company is also evolving capabilities to integrate GPS together with complementary inertial navigation systems to provide a more resilient solution. Froom explained why, “GPS denial is an absolute reality. It is relatively straightforward to deny GPS. We know this and our enemies know this. They also know that our troops rely on it. What we need to do is to give our troops the ability to navigate 24 hours a day whether GPS is available or not. For many years GPS used to be the be-all-and-end-all solution to navigation but we are now moving to ‘Enhanced GPS’. GPS is extremely good but it isn’t always there and we have to give the soldier the navigation they need at all times.”

To help meet these requirements, Rockwell Collins UK, now in its 50th year, teamed with Swiss firm Vectronix to offer the DRAGN, which was launched in June. DRAGN systems have already enjoyed some success, explained Froom, being selected by Thales for the FIST V2 trials with ten units shortly being shipped.

Designed to be either a stand-alone system or part of an SMP ensemble, DRAGN has at its core a military GPS card but then switches to accurate inertial sensors when GPS can’t operate – inside buildings, under foliage canopies or even in conditions of electronic denial. Once a GPS signal can be received again the system automatically reverts back.

Rockwell Collins is the systems integrator for DRAGN and supplies the core GPS technology and operating software with Vectronix providing the solid-state compass, gyro, accelerometer, barometric sensor and processing technology. One of the challenges with DRAGN was that the internal barometer requires true air pressure to function accurately so cannot be placed in a sealed unit. The ruggedisation challenge this poses has been overcome by placing a Gortex-like membrane over the small breather vent in the DRAGN, which allows air, but no other particulate matter, to enter.

Lightweight and compact –roughly the size of a hand-held cassette recorder – the system uses an external power supply and requires a display for the geo-location information to be displayed whilst the Mil-Spec data port allows information to be sent over an SMP network.

DRAGN is not just a ‘dumb’ navigation system; software inside allows it to learn from the users behaviour to become more accurate. When GPS coverage is regained, DRAGN could find that it had lost some accuracy after prolonged dead reckoning due to the soldier walking faster or slower predicted, DRAGN learns from this and adjusts its measurement of a s

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