Ground Sensor Network Uses Solar Power for Border Protection
Lockheed Martin’s Self-Powered Ad-hoc Networks (SPAN)
Securing borders is an increasingly important necessity for countries around the world. Customers are seeking low-cost, easy-to-use, stealthy solutions that will alert them of intrusions. A covert, perpetually self-powered wireless sensor network developed by Lockheed Martin could revolutionize how to discreetly monitor one’s surroundings.
Lockheed Martin’s Self-Powered Ad-hoc Networks (SPAN) system, a wireless network of “Field-and Forget” ground sensors, is specifically designed for detecting intrusions within a specified area, border surveillance or even tracking structure stress in aircraft or bridges. With sensors small enough to be concealed in camouflage housings, such as those resembling rocks, SPAN sensors can be inconspicuously positioned throughout an area.
"One of the challenges unattended surveillance sensors have had in the past is size," said Jack Bright, Lockheed Martin’s program director for SPAN. “Large sensor nodes would be easy for interlopers to locate. With SPAN, we’ve designed sensor nodes small enough to fit into the palm of a person's hand.”
Another issue with wireless sensor networks is power. Most networks use expendable batteries, which have a limited operational life and require periodic replacement. The SPAN system operates with extremely low power, thereby making it possible to power it via energy-harvesting technology, such as solar panels.
“Each sensor node in SPAN has an energy harvesting subsystem that re-charges itself using energy sources from its environment,” Said Bright. “This all but eliminates the need for battery replacement and servicing.”
Low power consumption is achievable also because the nodes do not transmit unless there is a sensor reading of concern. SPAN’s reduced power demand extends its operational life, and its inconspicuous sensors reduce the likelihood of discovery and tampering.
“Developing a self-powered system provides ultra low sensor cost and negates typical concerns regarding battery life,” added Bright. “Battery life can be a critical differentiator when determining the safety of those in harm’s way.”
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