Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

2012 Scott R. Clark Innovation Award Project Name: Electric Field Gunshot Detection

Department: Civil and Mechanical Engineering

Design Team: CDTs Benjamin Poth (CIC), José Ramirez, and Matthew DiBasilio

Advisors: Dr. Özer Arnas, LTC Bret Vanpoppel and MAJ John Evangelista


A. Project Description
Design a real-time notification system to detect small-arms threat locations. The system must be accurate and effective during ambush scenarios and close quarters urban combat environments. The system must be affordable, non-intrusive to the Gunner within the confines of the Objective Gunner Protection Kit environment, and must provide for operational functionality, maintenance, and reliability. 
B. Soldier or Army Need/Issue that is addressed
The issue of sniper, and more generally gunshot detection, is a real and prevalent danger faced by the deployed men and women operating in current theatres of armed conflict. These styles of attacks, characteristic of current warfare, allow for the enemy to easily hide themselves among the civilian populace and surrounding terrain. The result is a delayed reaction to contact (due to unknown direction of incoming fire), resulting in the ability of the enemy to escape and conduct future operations another day. To address this problem, engineers in both the private and government sectors have created systems that successfully detect the direction of incoming sniper fire. Currently fielded systems such as the Boomerang Mobile Shooter Detection System rely on acoustic methods of detection. These systems face serious issues with detecting reduced noise signatures (silencers and sub-sonic bullets) and becoming over-saturated (due to echoes, high noise environments, and multiple shots fired) in combat environments. 
C. Benefits of the presented solution to the soldier
This system provides real-time feedback and notification to the mounted gunner concerning the origin of incoming fire without becoming saturated by high noise acoustic environments. The system is able to detect multiple gunshots without degraded performance. This will allow combat units to effectively engage all threats when conducting combat operations. 
D. Specific innovations in the presented solution
The Electric Field Gunshot Detection System takes advantage of the triboelectric effect. As a round is fired, friction between the round and barrel rifling induces a positive charge on the round. As the round leaves the rifle, air resistance produces enough friction to sustain the induced charge on the round. The charged round in turn emits an electromagnetic field as it travels through the air. The sensors of this system are able to detect the electric field of the round up to a distance of 15 feet, and in turn calculate shooter location. This system also integrates an internal digital compass, which relays the shooter location from the perspective that the mounted gunner is facing. Designed in accordance with Signal Detection Theory principles, this rectification of shooter location to gunner direction avoids sensory overload, increasing the probability of a successful engagement. The sensors, digital compass, and output LED lights are integrated using a Cerebot Microcontroller.

E. Impact of the work (cost savings, time, lives, # soldiers impacted)
This system would solve the issue of detecting enemy sniper location in combat scenarios, and gives the solution to the shortcomings of currently fielded acoustic systems. Picatinny Arsenal intends on fielding the final system as a standard part of the Objective Gunner Protection Kit by 2014. This implies that the Electric Field Gunshot Detection will be standard issue on most U.S. Army vehicles. With a diameter of only 4 inches, and a height of 1.5 inches, the system is non-intrusive. The system can be powered using existing vehicle power supply, and may be powered by a simple 9V battery should the vehicle not run for any reason. The system is relatively low-maintenance with only basic soldering skills needed to conduct field repairs. Once fielded this system will aid in increasing the security and safety of every soldier conducting combat patrols. This system has been selected as a top finalist in the Annual Soldier Design Competition to be held at MIT on April 18th.