Using bone conduction technology to aid soldiers on the battlefield

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BAE Systems has developed an innovative communication device to aid armed forces personnel on the battlefield. The prototype system is designed to harness the body's natural ability to transmit sound through bone conduction, transferring messages directly from the soldier’s helmet to the inner ear. It is being developed as part of research aiming to reduce the burden on the dismounted soldier through wearable technology.

Soldiers need to be able to receive audio communications to maximise their awareness and understanding of the challenging environments they are working in, whilst also protecting themselves from extremely loud noises such as gunfire. To address these conflicting requirements, BAE Systems engineers have adapted existing bone conduction technology often used in commercial headphones and hearing aids for the military domain.

The resulting solution is said to improve the performance of the device and minimise the size and weight of the transducer to the size of a five pence coin. Leveraging off-the-shelf technology to engineer the prototype has allowed the team to reduce development time and costs.

Mohammed Akhmad, principal scientist at BAE Systems, said: "We recognise that on the battlefield, auditory situational awareness is essential for armed forces personnel. With this system, the soldiers can safeguard their hearing with ear protectors whilst still clearly receiving military voice communications, to enable them to perform their roles efficiently and safely.

In the future this technology will be incorporated into future integrated helmets. A concept demonstrator for BAE Systems' bone conduction technology will be on display at DSEI 2015 (Defence and Security Equipment International), in London.