Situational Awareness: Rugged Electronics that Enhance Battlefield Intelligence – Part 1: Capture


What is situational awareness?

Circumstances can evolve quickly on the battlefield, and the ability to understand the environment and anticipate potential threats can mean the difference between mission success and failure. Situational awareness, or knowing one’s surroundings, is critical for making informed decisions, identifying hazards and adjusting course. 

In the defense world, this intelligence is often provided and enhanced by technology—from tracking the position of friendly and enemy forces, to analyzing terrain, vehicle diagnostics or even weather conditions. This process consists of a system of devices and technological capabilities that allow intelligence to be captured, viewed and distributed—all in the name of enhancing situational awareness.


In this first blog of our three-part series, we will focus on the first step in this system, capture


Part One: Capturing Information

Before intelligence can be interpreted by operators on the battlefield, it must first be collected. Technology has revolutionized the way this information is captured, and thanks to sensors, drones, radar and more—threats can often be identified in real-time and without risking the lives of soldiers.


Cameras and Sensors

Military vehicles are often equipped with advanced cameras and sensors to provide the crew with a 360-degree view of the surroundings. These cameras go beyond the standard video feed, with the ability to capture moving targets and to provide thermal and multispectral imaging. And, it goes without saying these cameras are uniquely positioned to withstand demanding environmental conditions, such as extreme temperatures, fog, high ambient light and more. 

While cameras capture visual inputs, sensors can detect a variety of factors often imperceptible by the naked eye. This can include sensors for the detection of biological threats (such as aerosolized agents), radioactive material, explosives and toxic chemicals. When used on the battlefield, either in manned or unmanned vehicles, sensors can relay when an environment may be too dangerous to risk exposure to warfighters.


Unmanned Systems

Unmanned systems are just that—unmanned, leaving soldiers out of the way of harm in more precarious scenarios. This includes aerial systems, such as drones, which have the ability to surveil large areas quickly and provide teams with a line of sight to environmental conditions and enemy locations before sending in troops. 

These devices are often equipped with additional advanced capabilities, such as thermal imaging or night vision and are designed to collect intelligence without being detected. 


Radar and GPS

A powerful tool for enhancing situational awareness, radar transmits high-frequency radio signals to detect personnel and vehicles. These surveillance tools can scan 360 degrees every second to provide a detailed picture of movement within a set perimeter. As with cameras, MIL-Spec radar systems are designed to perform despite any extreme weather or lighting conditions. 

As important as monitoring friendly and enemy force positions is, monitoring one’s own movements is critical to enhancing situational awareness and making informed decisions. GPS aids in this process by providing real-time updates on position changes and navigation. 


A Full System Approach to Situational Awareness

The tools that allow intelligence to be captured, viewed and distributed on the battlefield work together to enhance situational awareness. Follow along with this series to explore how this system works together to maintain safety and ensure mission success.

Photography credit: US Army