TITLE: Advanced Battlefield Communications System in Operations and Training
Ground/Sea Vehicles, Human Systems
technologies to improve communications, localization, and auditory preservation
for combat and training scenarios. Develop digital signal processing and
actuators (speakers and microphones) and apply the aforementioned technologies
into a suitable Warfighter communication system(s). Optimize auditory detection
and localization in helmet and in-ear communications in high- and low-noise
environments. Demonstrate system efficacy—improved and clear communications in
actual scenarios. The components must be rugged and usable in ground/maritime
operations. Consider implementing noise monitoring without adverse effects on
DESCRIPTION: Warfighters rely
on their hearing to detect, identify, and localize sound sources and thus
potential threats [Refs 2, 3]. Verbal communications (face-to-face and
transmitted via radio) are crucial for mission success. Current communication
systems compromise these abilities. Combat and training environments challenge
Warfighter communications. The range of sound pressure levels encountered may
vary from the audiometric threshold of hearing up to levels that may cause
immediate auditory injuries. The sound pressure levels may vary rapidly across
this range, providing no opportunity to don and doff hearing protection as the
sound pressure level changes. Impulses may occur without warning.
An ideal communication and hearing protection system would enhance
communications and localization/detection. The system would be able to filter
or otherwise enhance incoming signals to preserve speech signals in the presence
of noise. It would attenuate high-amplitude noises to safe levels, and
automatically adjust gain and compression levels to protect the user from high
noise exposure. It would allow the user to maintain situational awareness by
detecting, identifying, and localizing sounds. The system would be robust
enough to handle the adverse environments (e.g., moisture) and inherent rough
handling that Warfighter equipment is exposed to [Ref 4]. It could include user
adjustments to help eliminate some causes of hearing loss and could consider
noise monitoring/dosimetry capabilities.
The communication system would consider modern, digital signal processing, with
matched microphones and speakers (actuators) to overcome these challenges.
Existing communication systems reduce intelligibility in the operational and
training scenarios. The system must work in the current noise levels of 74 to
117 dBA, which are noise hazardous [Ref 1] and compromise current
communications. ANSI S3.2-2009 (R2014) (Method For Measuring The
Intelligibility Of Speech Over Communication Systems) would be an appropriate
means of evaluation using the modified rhyme test [Ref 5]. ANSI S3.2-2009
(R2014) includes factors that affect the intelligibility of speech. The goal is
to reduce in-ear noise levels below 85 dBA.
PHASE I: Determine the
feasibility of developing and constructing communication technologies to
provide clear communications between Warfighters both over radios and
face-to-face in the presence/absence of high-level noise (continuous and/or
impulsive). Develop a detailed design for a communication system that can meet
the performance and the constraints listed in the Description. Create a report
that must address level(s) of hearing protection provided by the communication
system, which must consider both forward fit and back fit. Phase I includes the
initial layout and capabilities, along with a descriptive plan to build the
unit in Phase II.
PHASE II: Produce Warfighter
communication system prototype hardware based on the Phase I proof-of-concept
design for evaluation. Finalize the prototype design and validate improved
communications for operational and training scenarios. Speech intelligibility
tests shall be performed to confirm the communication improvements. Deliver six
full prototype communication system kits for testing and evaluation at a
location chosen by the Marine Corps/Navy. Phase II funding will not be provided
until Institutional Review Board (IRB) approvals are obtained for human subject
PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS:
Construct production units suitable for certification for the Approved for Navy
Use (ANU) List and develop marketing plans for a broad range of customers. Kits
shall include all hardware required for modification of communication systems,
operations, and maintenance procedures.
National and local police and security forces would benefit from this
technology development. This technology is also applicable to first responders,
in particular, fire fighters. Exposure of personnel to high noise levels, even
with hearing protection, substantially increases the risk of Noise Induced
Hearing Loss (NIHL). Hazardous noise exposure may be mitigated through
administrative controls such as limiting an individual’s exposure time, use of
hearing protection and engineering controls. The Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) requires elimination and or reduction of an acoustic
hazard through engineering controls prior to implementing administrative
controls or relying on personal protective hearing protection. Over the past
decade, a large number of hearing loss claims (civilian) has been filed and
millions of dollars have been compensated to workers due to NIHL. Workers in
industries such as mining, oil fields, manufacturing, construction, and transportation
are routinely exposed to high noise levels, and face similar communication
challenges in high-noise environments. Reducing a worker’s occupational noise
exposure is imperative from a safety and economics perspectives.
1. Casali and Clasing, “The
Effects of Augmented Hearing Protection/Enhancement Devices o Auditory
Situation Awareness for Military Ground Combat Applications.” PhD Dissertation.
Virginia Tech, 2012
2. Garinther and Peters, “The
Effects of Speech Intelligibility on Crew Performance in an M1A1 Tank
Simulator.” U.S. Army Human Engineering Laboratory Technical Memorandum 11-90.
3. Keller, et al, NSWCDD,
August 2016, “Performance in noise: Impact of reduced speech intelligibility on
Sailor performance in a Navy command and control environment”, Hearing Research
349 (2017) 55e66
4. MIL-STD-810G, Department
of Defense Test Method Standard: Environmental Engineering Considerations and
Laboratory Tests. 2008
5. ANSI/ASA S3.2-2009
(R2014), “Method for Measuring the Intelligibility of Speech over
Communications Systems”, Acoustical Society of America. 2009
System; Talk-through Circuitry; Localization; Hearing Protection; Noise
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