FORT BENNING, Ga. (May 22, 2014) – Soon, seeing what’s around a corner or in a building could be as easy as the touch of a button on a smart phone for Soldiers on the small-unit level.
The Maneuver Center of Excellence and the Maneuver Battle Lab here, are conducting experiments that allow platoon leaders and squad leaders to receive real-time video and imagery from multiple unmanned aerial and ground systems using the prototype Small Unit Leader Situational Awareness Tool, or SULSAT.
Soldiers demonstrated the technology May 13, at the McKenna Military Operations on Urban Terrain training area here.
“It increases situational awareness and maneuverability,” said Tony Carbone, Maneuver Battle Lab data analyst. “It also increases survivability because it allows Soldiers to use a robot to check for IEDs.”
As part of the testing, Soldiers performed reconnaissance missions, with and without SULSAT, said James Faulkenberry, Maneuver Battle Lab project officer.
The goal was to see what impact the prototype made in Soldiers’ situational awareness on the battlefield.
One controller, the tactical robotics controller, known as a TRC, receives imagery from the unmanned systems and sends it to the SULSAT, Faulkenberry said.
He said the SULSAT allows the platoon leader to move throughout his squad instead of looking over the shoulder of the unmanned aerial or ground system operator to receive a common operational picture of the battlefield.
“I like the capability,” said Staff Sgt. Vincent Kelly of A Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, who served as the squad leader during the testing.
“It can help clear routes and help determine which way to go,” Kelly explained.
Kelly said the prototype’s size is a definite plus, as it fits into a pocket or pouch, and can be pulled out as need when conducting a mission.
First Lt. Brandon Slusher, also of A Company, said the SULSAT provides greater situational awareness, while allowing him to more effectively maneuver his squads.
“You always make the best decision you can with the information you have, and this gives me more information and greater confidence in my decisions,” Slusher said.
Another benefit of the system is that the company commander sees the same thing the platoon sees from the unmanned systems, which results in less radio traffic during combat operations, he said.
As the operator of the TRC, Spc. Timothy McCoy, A Company, said the system is easy to operate and has its advantages during combat operations.
“I can see it being especially useful if you’re trying to get a foothold in a building in village that you haven’t been to before,” he said.
One of the drawbacks to the prototype is its limited transmission distance that only allows the platoon leader to be a short distance from the TRC operator, Slusher said.
Kelly agreed with Slusher’s assessment.
“It’s just the little things that are going to have to get worked out,” he said.
In the future, the testing conducted at the Maneuver Battle Lab will be used to determine what tactics, techniques and procedures will be adopted for the use of SULSAT and the hope is to eventually add the system to the NettWarrior system for use in future operations, Faulkenberry said.