From the halls of Montezuma to the streets of Sarajevo, battle readiness now requires preparation for urban warfare, as troops increasingly confront both peacekeeping and routine military operations in cities. Anticipating this need, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency commissioned prototypes for an array of specialized technologies to assist the military's street-fighting man in shutting down sniper fire.
A sniper-detection device developed by BBN Technologies, part of Verizon, allows soldiers to track the trajectory of a bullet back to a hidden enemy, using microphones and a compass mounted on a helmet. Alternatively, these sensors could be installed on a truck, aircraft, streetlight or even a building facade's ornamental gargoyle. The bullet tracker works when two or more sensor-equipped soldiers pick up the acoustic vibrations from both the muzzle blast (the gunpowder explosion as the bullet leaves the weapon) and the supersonic crack as the bullet speeds along. The sensors can then radio their data to computers that soldiers wear on their bodies. A computer's mathematical model, in conjunction with the Global Positioning System, then overlays the information on a map.
This article was originally published with the title Sounding Out Snipers.