Wireless Sensor Networking Solutions for Tactical ISR

Course length:

3 Days



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This 3-day course provides an introduction, overview, and means to assess of Tactical ISR (T-ISR) mission objectives, responsive wireless sensor networks, and provides details associated with each subsystem associated with a WSN sensor node (mote). Material presented by this course directly correlates to design issues and system solutions associated with Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. Elements of WSN node subsystems are reviewed, including key performance evaluation and implementation details. Low-power, low-cost sensor modalities are presented with development of characteristic performance equations. Signal processing, sampling, and analog-to-digital conversion (ADC) approaches are presented and compared. Wireless networking design is reviewed from the perspective of physical (PHY) and media access control (MAC) perspectives. Network formation and maintenance (e.g., self-healing) is described and includes concepts that address the Jain Fairness Index and routing algorithms (DSDV, OLSR, WRP, CCS/LCC protocols). Applicability and comparison to MANET-based systems is provided. Attributes associated with real-time operating systems (RTOS), WSN middleware applications and services, and overarching net management system control (NMS) are presented. The problem of localization of sensor nodes is presented, along with WSN communication security schemes. Approaches to power management, to enable persistent ISR operations, are described and implementations presented. This course is of significant value to those working WSN design and implementation, remote sensing, and solving tactical ISR (T-ISR) mission requirements. Experience and technical backgrounds best suited include: engineers, computer & physical scientists, and system decision-makers that work with WSN-based system solutions. Detailed derivations are provided via the distributed course notes, as well as examples of computer-based tools used to evaluate design performance. Key performance issues, and design implementations are provided by distributed Python code.

What You Will Learn:

  • What tactical ISR is and how these missions differ from traditional
  • Understanding key sensor technologies (optical, seismic/acoustic, magnetic, SIGINT) capability, strengths & weaknesses.
  • Access to, and understanding equations that gauge performance of: ad hoc networking, sensor performance, and evaluation of sensor systems.
  • Working knowledge of terminology associated with sensor and WSN technologies.
  • Review of standards and interfaces associated with sensor design and ad hoc communication interfaces.
  • Review of probability models associated with packet-switched networking, sensor system design and network capability.
  • How to formulate effective trade studies among WSN system components, implementations, and configurations, including tiered systems.
  • How to manage distributed sensor assets and successful support timely exfiltration of vital data products.
  • How to insure seamless integration sensors to situational analyses and common operating (COP) architectures.
  • Considerations as: power management, security, effective operation & upgrading, current and coming standards.

Course Outline:

  1. Overview of ISR – ISR sensor systems and issues experienced, and emergence of WSN as a viable solution.
  2. Tactical ISR (T-ISR) – definitions, mission objectives, operational considerations and top-level requirements.
  3. T-ISR System – functions and design implementations presented.
  4. WSN and node (mote) hardware – subsystem descriptions and performance equations associated with: appropriate microcontrollers, mote sensor signal processing and sampling, ADCs, and available ISM RF bands. WSN resource constraints are identified and presented.
  5. WSN software – RTOS overview, mote middleware applications
  6. WSN applicability– to T-ISR missions, as WSN-only or as part of a tiered sensor system.
  7. Ad hoc networking technology – overview and application to WSN and MANET-based systems
  8. Key performance parameters (KPPs) – definition and derivation approach to determining KPPs for T-ISR systems based on WSN technologies.
  9. WSN RF Communications – overview of packet-switched networking and WSN-specific RF communication issues and design considerations.
  10. Communication architecture– overview of worldwide sensor networks (e.g., DoDIN)
  11. Exfiltration relays – description of wireless linkage interface between WSN mote field and external operation centers (MoC).
  12. Sensor node localization – localization techniques beyond employing GPS solutions (and GPS solutions).
  13. Power management – approaches to meeting persistent sensing requirements.
  14. Passive optical sensor modality – design considerations and equations associated with passive optical sensor design, including infrared (IR) and visible (VIS), including use of MTF, sub-pixel sampling, dither focal planes
  15. Active optical sensor modality – design considerations and equations associated with active (laser radar) optical sensor design, including direct detection and continuous (coherent) systems and dealing with issues as speckle and glint.
  16. Ultra Wideband (UWB) overview – UWB designs and hardware for WSN-based ISR systems.
  17. Seismic/Acoustic sensor modality – seismic and acoustic sensor design and realization, including example implementations, that operate within the restrictions of a WSN sensor node.
  18. Magnetometer sensing modality – design considerations and equations associated with use of low-cost magnetometers (chipsets).
  19. Aligning WSN capability to SIGINT objectives – adopting a WSN approach to gaining access to ambient signal environment for use as a SIGINT capability.
  20. T-ISR system deployment approaches – designs for the dispersion of WSN nodes in setting up and deploying a T-ISR system.
  21. System-level testing and operations – approaches to providing operation evaluation for deployed WSN-based T-ISR systems.
  22. Case studies – DARPA NEST & ANSCD programs, DHS CBP (Customs & Border Patrol) border monitoring, HVT TTL (tagging, tracking, & locating) with Laser Vibrometry.


Timothy D. Cole is a leading authority on active and passive sensor systems with 40 years of experience during which he successfully designed, developed, and deployed sensing systems used for military, space-based, and biomedical applications. At Teledyne-Brown, Mr. Cole developed sensor systems to perform exoatmospheric target tracking and identification using long-wave infrared (LWIR) and laser radar. While at The Johns Hopkins University/Applied Physics Laboratory, Mr. Cole worked successfully designed & delivered the ground control & processing facility for Navy’s GEOSAT-1 Ku-band altimeter and was the designer/developer of NASA’s Near-Earth Rendezvous laser radar (NLR). He was the original lead engineer for New Horizons long-range reconnaissance imager (LORRI) and co-developer of a multi-meridian photorefractor with Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute. At Northrop Grumman, Mr. Cole initiated, developed, and delivered WSN-based sensors: micro-laser mote (MLRmote), and passive infrared mote (PIRmote). He integrated sensor web enablement (SWE) standards (Open Geospatial Consortium) to WSN nodes and unattended ground sensors (UGS). He designed and conducted demonstrations using WSN mote fields, UGS, and laser radars to solve issues associated with border monitoring, secure facility protection, and high-value target (HVT) TTL. Recently, as the NASA/GSFC calibration science lead, Mr. Cole delivered the photon-counting laser altimeter to NASA’s ICESat-2 mission (launched Sept 2018).  Mr. Cole was twice awarded the NASA Achievement Award, and while at Northrop Grumman, was a Technical Fellow.


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