Technological advancements have made ground-based self-healing, self-forming, and self-configuring wireless sensor networks a viable option for monitoring missions.
A wireless sensor network that Lockheed Martin calls the Self-Powered Ad-hoc Network (SPAN) is being deployed in the energy sector to monitor infrastructure such as pipelines. Their low energy use, and self-organizing mesh network, makes them ideal for ground surveillance. To aid in their deployment, the low-cost sensors are being camouflaged in housings that look like rocks, and the sensors harvest energy sources from the surrounding environment to extend their battery life.
The persistent surveillance system is monitored and controlled from a single machine that processes aggregate readings. The smart sensor network can cue a camera or unmanned aerial vehicle to further study an area or call an engineer when a pipeline or bridge structure is in danger of fracture.
A similar wireless sensor network is being deployed by Textron Defense Systems along borders and in Afghanistan. The MicroObserver Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) system can track and detect people and vehicles, and act as a perimeter defense. This system is a wireless mesh with nodes placed underground that can communicate up to a range of 10 km via radio. The system can be deployed quickly with little training needed.
With this new level of sensing capability, with low maintenance and sophisticated algorithms that reduce false reporting, we can expect broader use and more sensor inputs into our systems.