back to article Profs design AK47-locating 'smart dust' helmets

Acoustic gunshot detectors have become common in the past few years, and some have been reduced in size to where a single soldier can wear one on his uniform and be cued-in to an enemy's location as soon as he fires. Engineers in Tennessee, however, are touting the idea of tieing a unit of footsoldiers' acoustic shot-spot …


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  1. Tom Cooke

    Smart dust

    Vernor Vinge strikes again (A Deepness in the Sky)!

  2. Anonymous Coward


    ..expect these to become VERY popular then very soon...! :-D

  3. Rand McNatt
    Black Helicopters

    Another new system comes to mind

    "In each package is a wireless network node..."

    "Every node is also equipped with Bluetooth short-range data radio..."

    I'm imagining the market for a radio direction-finder which gives a sniper a live heads-up display of the location of all the smart-dusted soldiers in the immediate area.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "and slow pistol or submachinegun rounds aren't much threat to well-armoured modern soldiers"

    What?! For real?

  5. Aaron Harris


    Am I missing a trick here, surly once you have been shot, knowing where it came from is going to be the last thing on your mind!

    Mine is the one with the kevlar plates

  6. joe
    Thumb Down

    Does anyone see the problem?

    A sniper on a hill with a "Yagi" or parabolic for wide areas can pick up a platoon from miles away as their helmets chatter. Now its possible for the sniper to zero in on them off without line site! Better yet, i would set my perimeter up with these or on a mobile platform ...

    Got to love the South Koreans!

  7. Brian Miller

    Subsonic: .45ACP

    The standard-issue Colt .45 round is subsonic. In fact, there was a land speed record set which would have easily outrun that round.

  8. Steve


    "A helmet fitted with Ledeczi's system already knows exactly where it is and how it is oriented with respect to the gun muzzles, so it should be able to mark the positions of enemy shooters on a see-through visor or monocle without difficulty."

    That is just begging to be built into a rifle scope.

    In fact, why not build it into that SWORDS system that they've got.

  9. Anonymous Coward


    In the latest Batman movie, he hacked into everybody's cell phones to do something just like that, except in the movie it was way far more advanced.

    But the researchers will have a heck lot of trouble recording *every* weapon (at least all types already present in combat scenarios) shooting *every* possible muzzle, recording its sonic blast, and so on, and so forth. Should anybody come up with a new weapon, and I'll bet this thing will fail....

    ...Unless this system can already extrapolate the data, based solely on the shape and material of the weapons (as some archeologists/musicians have accomplished to reproduce ancient instruments based exclusively on that) then the sampling base must be HUGE.

    Even subsonic arms and munitions can be traced, once the extrapolation hypothesis above is true. These would be efficient for day-to-day police/SWAT duty, no?

    The idea is not new, obviously.

    Coat (or black cape?) for obvious reasons, also...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The original AK-47 BTW was 5.45 x 39mm, and these 7.62 x 39mm variants are updates.

    There are also AK variants that fire 5.56 x 45mm NATO rounds, but they are probably still easy to distinguish sonically from an M16 or an M4. NATO 7.62 is 7.62 x 51mm, which is not only a more powerful cartridge but also sports a slightly longer, heavier projectile.

  11. Ian K
    Paris Hilton

    @Tom Cooke: Smart Dust

    Indeed, although I'm not sure the "dust" in this case is really all that dusty.

    If it's powered by 4 AA batteries, never mind size of the device itself, you're really looking at an Intelligent Pebble. Or maybe a Bright Rock.

    Paris, because she appreciates relative sizes.

  12. Hombre sin nombre

    Beats the old method

    Of using your helmet to determine the direction of the enemy based on which side the hole was in.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And with these being Americans...

    ... once they have located the exact window the sniper is shooting from, the offending naughty person will be terminated by a B52 cruising a mile up emptying it's entire cargo over the neighbourhood.

  14. Smallbrainfield

    This sounds like the sort of kit

    every GI* should carry. Possibly in their Helm.

    *Genetic Infantryman, of course, like Rogue Trooper.

  15. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    At at the origin of the AK clatter...

    ...there will be Captain America, souvenir-hunting.

  16. davcefai


    Oi! What happened to "boffins" in the headline?

  17. Simon Painter

    too cheap

    Hang on, they are only asking for $1000 bucks from the pork barrel for this bit of jiggery pokery? The generals will laugh them out of the hot tub with that proposition. If they'd asked for a hundred thousand for each device while in an extended testing and ruguedisation phase which would involve the generals going to see demos in places like the Bahamas then they might be taken seriously. I can't imagine the other military contractors will take too kindly to these people offering a product that is relatively cheap and works well, it'll make the rest look bad.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Anonymous Coward 25th March 2009 21:34

    Mr. Tackleberry I presume?

  19. Evil Consultant

    Subsonic Sniping Rounds

    They're a bit exotic and fairly rare, but there are subsonic sniping rounds available, which would not be detectable by this sort of kit. For example, the 338 Whisper and 500 Whisper rounds fire ultra-heavy VLD (very low drag) bullets at just under 1100fps are good out to over 1000 yards as they have ballistic coefficients of the order of 1 or higher.

    They also have the advantage that they never go trans-sonic, which enhances accurary at longer ranges. If you fire a bullet at a target sufficient far away then it is going to go subsonic at some point, for example, let's say we fire a 155 grain 30 caliber bullet at 2900fps, then it goes subsonic at around 1100 yards or so. As the bullet slows below the speed of sound, the shock wave collapses over the bullet, knocking it slightly off line, hence reducing accuracy. If you start off with a subsonic bullet then this is, of course, not a problem.

    Not the sort of thing your average Taleban sniper is going to have to be sure, and you might have to politely ask your target to sit still for a few seconds while it arrives, but nonetheless such things exist and are effective.


  20. John

    face detection

    I was watching an episode of Enterprise the other night (Hello, I'm John and I'm a Star Trek addict) and Captain Archer kept missing when he fired his phaser. Then I remembered that cameras nowadays have face detection. I would imagine similar targetting systems are being put into guns as I type and that in a few years people will laugh that anyone other than olympic marksmen actually aimed manually.

  21. John

    @ AC 21:34


    There's always one.

  22. TeeCee Gold badge

    How technology improves your life.

    Old way:

    <BANG> "WTF was that? Aaaaaarrrggggghhhhh!" <Thud>

    New way:

    <BANG> "Ah! One of *those*! Aaaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!" <Thud>

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    So what happens...

    when the enemy (Iraqis, Talibans, British etc) pick up a Merkin weapon and use that to shoot at them. Will this helmet think to itself - "Ummm. My wearer has joust been shot. But it was with a friendly bullet from a friendly rifle, so no enemy over there then."

  24. Remy Redert

    @anon 25-03 21:34

    You'll find that the original AK47 fires the M43 7.62 x 39mm round (Or various varients thereof).

    Meanwhile, several newer versions like the AK74 fire the 5.45 x 39mm round. They aren't all that hard to distuingish from .223 Remington and 7.62mm NATO rounds.

    Subsonic weapons would be much harder to pinpoint, but not impossible, as you'd only have the muzzle blast to work with. Fortunately, most subsonic rounds are sidearms and indeed aren't that big a threat to a well armoured soldier, whose armour can withstand a nigh infinite amount of almost any kind of sidearm shots you can throw at it.

    Cue the VSS Vintorez which fires the 9 x 39mm round. A heavy subsonic round that is capable of defeating most kinds of body armour at several hundred meters.

    As for picking up troops using this system, that would be doable out in the open in the desert where you probably have line of sight anyways, but useless in cities where there will be plenty of mobile phones and the like all operating in the same spectrum. There's also the issue of range, as I doubt these systems will have much of it.

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. James O'Brien

    @And with these being Americans...

    " ... once they have located the exact window the sniper is shooting from, the offending naughty person will be terminated by a B52 cruising a mile up emptying it's entire cargo over the neighbourhood."

    Whats wrong with that??

  27. AndrewG
    Thumb Down

    Lets paint targets on all of our guys

    Sounds great, lets make sure all the troops are emitting EM radiation, it makes opposing recon, intel gathering and targetting so much easier.

    I sometimes wonder how anyone would expect these things to survive and be useful in the field.

  28. Matware
    Black Helicopters

    Replace Bluetooth with UWB and it might be a little less dangerous

    I don't like the idea of my helmet asking every mobile phone within 30m to 'Pair' with it..... I also expect that this will result in a roaring development effort in bullets that can change trajectory mid fight, remote controlled sniper rifles and big bore silenced subsonic weapons (with payloads)...

    That snipers working in groups...

  29. 4irw4y
    Thumb Down

    Next Must Be Taxes Sniffer Then

    Wanna say enemies have to buy NATO-certified weaponry?

    What an excellent opportunity to diversify the markeing of M16 to Arabistan and Africa. That's what producers of the rifle think when they read Ledeczi. Though, if one means that the Russians are his enemy (personal, maybe), AC @ Wed 25 Mar 2134 is quite correct - regulars yet/still use AK 74, specials - AKMS, and AKSU for a short-distance incidents - but the last one has poor grouping of shots, quick overheating and stalling the bolt, nicht sheissen (-: They produce absolutely another Dust when working.

    Also, the sniffer ( possibly (-; ) stops working in deserts (heavy sand), in Hot Wet (Humidity), in North-American and Russian winters (****General Frost), also in heavy wind. Completely useless for the in-house activities. Great when you don't exactly sure where you'd put in (-; your taxes. Ask your local GRU resident for detailed report. And for advice about taxes too.

    Damn, NATO solgier will soon look like a combat robot. Poor camel. Mothers should raise a protest.

    And - RU Govt finally agreed (partially by force of you know which nature) and declared the new slogan we were discussing a couple of month before. Make sputniks, not missiles. Good news, for real.


  30. fajensen

    Not enuff Pork!

    <i>Ledeczi say that each set would cost only $1,000, as compared to existing systems selling for ten times as much. But nonetheless</i>

    With unit costs this low and transparent where is the bezzle for the qualification process going to come from?

    Bump the unit price about 25 times, then add a five-year field-trial qualification period and ... business would come ;-)

  31. Simon Neill



    Silencers won't work on supersonic bullets too well, since the bullet will still make a sonic boom. Fitting a silencer might reduce accuracy but the system will still work.

    @new weapon

    if they have any sense it will mark it as a weapon of unknown type, but still be able to track it. All you need to do is make sure all friendly weapons are flagged friendly, shoot the rest at will.

  32. Tim Jenkins
    Thumb Down

    And then

    (as someone wiser than me once said)

    an unfriendly native hits you on the head with a rock when you stop to change the batteries...

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    There's a top down map with a fog of war, with the soldier's sensors readings all extrapolated and overlaid on satellite imagery. Then when someone inside the FOW shoots, they appear on this top down display?

    Also, would it mean that when an enemy weapon is fired towards a friendly troop you'd get an instant "Our Forces Are Under Attack" message?

    Let's hope the enemy don't have a civillian killing machine called Tanya kicking about!

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Re The original AK-47 BTW was 5.45 x 39mm, and these 7.62 x 39mm variants are updates.

    Sorry AC you are wrong.

    The AK47 was based on the AK1 which Kalashnikov entered into a competition for a new Soviet rifle. The AK1 used a 7.62 x 41 cartridge. The AK47 when it came into service in 1947 used a 7.62 x 39 round. The round you are refering to is used in the AK 74 which came into service in 1974.

    Mines the anorak with Jane's Infantry Weapons in the pocket.

  35. Nathan
    Black Helicopters

    For real?... YES!

    "and slow pistol or submachinegun rounds aren't much threat to well-armoured modern soldiers"

    By Anonymous Coward Posted Wednesday 25th March 2009 18:15 GMT

    What?! For real?

    Modern body armor worn by soldiers uses a combination of tightly woven fabric (Kevlar) and a series of ceramic inserts, These vests can stop just about anything including the infamous 7.62. Unless the shooter has some massive caliber such as the .338 or .50 but if your getting hit with one of those... your on the wrong team.

    Then again you can't cover yourself head to toe in body armor and still fight effectively (unless your job is to disarm bombs)

  36. Chris


    "...this system provides... ways that limit the number of friendly force and non-combatant casualties"

    Presumably provided you can resist the urge to "respond" using an airstrike?

  37. 4irw4y

    Somebody Call My Helmet

    I've just received a call from FSB London. As reported, IT's April 1st coming soon, and IT's limbering-up exercises going in ElREg.


  38. 4irw4y

    Somebody Call My Helmet

    I've been just received a call from FSB London. As reported, IT's April 1st coming soon, and IT's limbering-up exercises going in ElREg.


  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A level II Kevlar vest will stop most - not all - handgun bullets without the need for ceramic plates.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    could some knowledgeable person here...

    ... please please pick on my amazement here at the article's claim "and slow pistol or submachinegun rounds aren't much threat to well-armoured modern soldiers" and elaborate. I don't do guns nor kill people (as I work in IT sometimes I wish I had one and permission for the other) but it seems not credible.

    1. armour can provide only a limited body covering surely?

    2. even a decent handgun round has to have a hell of a kick. If you took that one to the head the energy has to go somewhere, even if it's been distributed over a whole skull surface via a helmet it would have to stun or do some damage, and that's assuming it hasn't found your unprotected face.

    3. Are human joints protected enough to take a hit without being damaged, and

    4. what are we talking about exactly. Does 'not much of a threat' mean you walk away or you're likely to live but crippled? Big difference.

    getting round this innovation, cos there's always a way:

    5. bullets seem to be blunt which I understand is vital for some armour to work, to spread the load. Could one either sharpen a bullet to get round this (presumably one cannot for aerodynamic reasons) or have a blunt sheath that peels off on impact leaving a properly pointy part?

    6. Along with 5., what are the implications for the 'enemy' - will they just give up and turn to more bombs, chemical/bio weapons etc - I'm thinking unintended consequences. Something the military seem uniquely unable to do.

  41. Mike


    7.62x39 is a totally different caliber from the 7.62 NATO. The 7.62 NATO is 7.62x51, better known as the .308 round. A big, powerful full-size rifle round. The 7.62x39 is a smaller assault rifle round, comparable in power to the US 30-30. They're in a totally different power class and role. The 7.62x39 bullet isn't even technically the same caliber. While 7.62 normally designates a .30 caliber round, 7.62x39 is actually .311 caliber. The .308 is, of course, .308 caliber.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ could some knowledgeable person here....

    Spot on...valid points/questions.

    I think you'll find it's all cock, bollocks and marketing, pay little heed. They (whichever team of scientists was paid vast amounts to come up with this crap) are just trying to sell shit and make money for their department. So what if people die or end up crippled. That's kind of the whole idea anyway. Ooops, never mind. Still got the multi billion dollar contract - move on people, so we can invent more super cool sounding stuff to use in wars, and make even more money! Yeehaw.

  43. Death_Ninja
    Paris Hilton


    What kind of a moron is shooting at proper soldiers with a handgun?

    "On the battlefield a pistol only needs one bullet" as the Russians say...

    Even Paris aint that stoopid

  44. George

    I think everyone is going a bit techy head here

    After all its just a tool for the Army to use, how they use may be different to the idea we all have. What about where you are pinned down in action and therefore pretty risky sticking your head to have a look/direct munitions/buddies to the source, this would be godsend.

    And as for the people saying its too late once your shot, you've been playing too many computer games, not every shot kills hits or even goes near the target.

    I also think its pretty risky since it would have to be really, really good to distinguish individual weapon types for friend/foe scenarios, we do not want anymore friendly fire!

  45. Paul George

    And with these being Americans.

    Naaaa. Much too old school. We use a Predator and a hellfire missle.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Aaron Harris

    Yes you have missed the point wildly.

    (1) most bullets miss their target so you can track where the misses cam efrom

    (2) many bullets that hit targets do not actually kill the target so again a tracking opportunity

    (3) even if a bullet kills a target the rest of the squad / platoon / hive can track the shooter and reduce further casualties.

    However, and I feel that El Reg has failed somewhat here (apart from Lewis*) in that I remember seeing a Tomorrow's World program a good 20 years ago where they were demonstrating a system that tracked bullets back to source by using high speed cameras and fancy software. Surely this method, coupled with the sonic one could track any and all bullets, whether high velocity, low velocity or even just thrown by an enemy whose gun** has jammed.

    *The system was British so obviously Lewis would have dismissed this out of hand and instead insisted that he money be spent on buying Chinooks


  47. John Smith Gold badge

    Slightly confused

    I get it has a 4 mic audio interferometer on it so it picks up direction and presumably range but is this enough to "Tune out" any rounds fired by the wearer?

    Or does it presume a default inviolable perimeter, so anything from inside this "bubble" has to be fired by the wearer? That sounds a bit processor heavy.

    Reading the piece a couple of thoughts struck me. What's the battery life for 4 AA's? Presumably this needs to be on for a whole patrol, so roughly how long would you expect that to be? A round could arrive at any time. OK its a prototype but how many batteries is the average GI carrying these days?

    Secondly I wonder about the ergonomics. How good is it at telling soldier in which direction to point *their* weapon? A map display for team leaders might be handy but something like 2 3 colour LEDs might give faster responses. white, dead ahead, green left, red righ, blue. shot a Brit by mistake.

    Like other posters this much EM chatter does sound like it will make a team easier to find.

    Mine's the one with The Art of Electronics in the pocket.

  48. Charles Manning

    AK47: prefered weapon of everyone

    The Prof makes a bit of an assumption that AK47 == enemy. Just shooting up all the AK47s will probably kill a few of your own too.

    Many western combat units have redeployed captured AK47s to either blend in better with the landscape or because they are typically more reliable than government issue.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    What if...

    the GI in his usual wisdom trades this technology for something he really wants, it happens it the Gulf, where he really wants that beret from the brit so much he's prepared to give away his satnav. If he trades it with an enemy without realising, it would be very easy for them to find and kill the trigger happy GIs.

    Mine's with Paris since they both have the sane IQ

  50. Anonymous Coward


    First problem, how is this system going to tell the difference between friendly fire and not so friendly fire because the enemy could also be using M16.

    Second problem would be if the system can identify who is friend or who is not by some kind of signal being emitted from the friendly soldier amour- what is stop the enemy from sending a missle to home into that signal

  51. steve
    Thumb Up

    Oh Dear

    Whilst this scores top points in the tech dept, it really fails miserably in the infantryman dept.

    The core problem being addressed by this technology is - That your unit is being shot at by an enemy who knows where you are, and you have no clue about their location .. at least until they open fire on you, at a time and place of their choosing.

    If your units are consistently in that position, then its already game over long before the first shot is fired.

    Adding thousands of dollars worth of electronics to your walking cannon fodder is barely an adequate response. It smacks of desperation far more than it does intelligence.

    How about TRAINING your soldiers to patrol properly in the first place ?

    It would be far better to know where the enemy is first, keep your own movements hidden, and engage on your own terms. Fancy electronics are not going to help here at all, especially against an enemy who is capable of BASIC good old fashioned fieldcraft.

    Thank God I have fellow Australian soldiers covering my ass if I am ever back at the sharp end.

  52. Shana

    Not exactly Bluetooth

    The article appears to incorrectly identify a “Bluetooth radio” rather than the Micaz, per the paper. The MICAz is a 2.4GHz IEEE 802.15.4 mote module for enabling low-power, wireless sensor networks. Bluetooth is too power hungry for this type of application. More information on the MICAz can be found here -, and information on other Mote applications is available here -

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