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Maintaining Tactical Voice Communications

Issues with confused voice communications have been traced to listening headsets and clutter caused by excess information to be processed in a short time.

Part of tactical communications involves transmitting and receiving secure signals within operating environments often cluttered by many other radio waves, including radar pulses, jammers, and communications signals. In the commercial world, wireless standards help to minimize interference between different radio waves. But, as researchers at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) have learned, getting the radio signals through may not always be the same as getting the message through.

Especially during long transmissions on headsets, the researchers discovered that information was not received and had to be repeated, resulting in highly inefficient tactical communications efforts. The problems led AFRL to develop and patent a software tool to capture and organize voice communications. It processes voice communications with multi-modal communication (MMC) spatial audio separation and provides visual transcriptions to avoid errors in communications.

“The biggest problem with emergency management is the confusion as messages get mixed, messages step on each other,” said Bob Lee, a branch chief at AFRL during the initial development of MMC, and currently open innovation project manager at Wright Brothers Institute in Dayton, Ohio. “Spatially separating them allows you to get back to a natural interface. Critical information is more likely to be found.”

The MMC software is still being evaluated for possible use by the U.S. Air Force, but has been used for civilian emergency management services communications, in particular by emergencies services startup company GlobalFlyte. MMC is used by GlobalFlyte as part of a Patent License Agreement (PLA) issued by the Air Force for the technology. The PLAs are means by which Air Force science and technology can be shared with state and local governments, academic researchers, and industry.

“The MMC will dramatically change the incident commander’s ability to process large amount of radio traffic,” explained Tim Shaw, GlobalFlyte’s CEO. “Having a better comprehension of information will result in making better decisions that save lives.”

The MMC is designed as a network-centric communication management program to record and display radio and chat communications for instant access to current and previous information. It can separate multiple signals, balancing large amounts of radio traffic without losing details. In addition to the PLA, GlobalFlyte signed a five-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the Air Force for additional research.

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