With a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, West Virginia University researchers are working to save lives on the battlefield by developing better wireless communication devices.

The goal of the project is to develop advanced communication systems for wireless networks that are more energy efficient and reliable for use by military personnel and can, in some form, eventually be applied to civilian use like mining.

The head of the research is Mridul Gautam, an engineering professor who also serves as WVU’s associate vice president for research and economic development.

Gautam said one of the components under development at WVU is the Ultra Wide-Band unattended network which will feature a bandwidth high enough to allow audio and video to be transmitted and received over vast areas for military purposes, but with a low probability of interception and detection. The work is being done in collaboration with Trident Systems, a major communications company based in Uniontown, PA.

“If an enemy detects your transmission, then you’re in trouble,” Gautam said. “Communication lines free of enemy presence would reduce the enemy’s ability to coordinate ambushes, thus lessening U.S. causalities.”

Gautam said WVU is also working on Sentry Node unattended sensor networks that are able to transmit images over a 10-kilometer range – something other communication systems cannot do. The ability to send and receive images between allied troops on the battlefield will help save lives and offer the U.S. tactical advantages over insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and in urban warfare in the Middle East.

WVU is also developing Individual Combatant Identification modules that will be use to monitor foot soldiers that cannot be visually detected by friendly forces. Gautam said the devices have military application in mountainous terrains.

“The ICIDs will be able to track soldiers and nail down where they are,” he said. “The ICIDs use biometric identification as means to precisely identify individuals because no two persons have the same biometric markers. If a soldier is captured, his or her ICID would periodically transmit their position to friendly forces using biometric markers to identify who is transmitting the signal.”

WVU landed the research projects with help from the Army Research Laboratory and Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), who serves on the House Appropriations Committee.

WVU has been conducting defense research since January. The work on the wireless communications projects, which is being conducted in CEMR’s Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science departments, is the latest and may be in service within five years.

“I would like to have as many departments engaged in defense research as possible,” Gautam said.

He explained that he has a vision of West Virginia as home to a large technology-based economic infrastructure that offers high-tech, high-paying jobs centered on defense research.

“The defense arena is not necessarily developing bombs or ammunition,” he said. “Defense-related research entails communication, intelligence, aerospace materials, biomedical sciences and a whole host of different areas. Ultimately, this is $2.7 million that will be going into the economy of this region in the next year.”

Gautam said he anticipates starting an on-line journal dedicated to defense research.

Gautam credited a talented team of researchers in the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources for their work on the projects including: co-principal investigator Brian Woerner, Matt Valenti, Daryl Reynolds, Vinod Kulathumani, Natalia Schmid, David Graham and Jignesh Solanki, all of the computer science and electrical engineering department, and Dan Carder, Ed Sabolsky and Jay Wilhelm, all of the mechanical and aerospace engineering department.

By Conor Griffith
For University Relations/News


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