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BAE SYSTEMS In Smart Dust Technology Breakthrough

13 Sep 2005

BAE Systems has made a significant breakthrough in the way Smart Dust sensors communicate with their host communications device.

Dust sensors are miniature signalling devices employing a fusion of MEMs, micro-electronic and optics technologies, which are integrated into unattended ground sensors and can be scattered over a target area by land based troops or from the air. The signalling devices themselves are tiny (20mm x 20mm) and can be packaged with a battery into a device about the size of a matchbox.

Smart Dust devices can detect and store movement and acoustic information. Also, as they are extremely sensitive to local vibrations and have a degree of intelligence, they are able to distinguish between the vibrations caused by troops and tanks. The information they pick up is stored internally until the device is interrogated.

Previously Smart Dust sensors use radio transceivers to communicate, which limited range when comparably sized batteries were used to power the transmitter.

Now, breakthrough research undertaken by BAE Systems at its Advanced Technology Centre shows that optical retroreflectors offer greatly increased communications ranges with low power drain providing that line of sight transmission is available to the interrogating laser.

We are developing retroreflectors based on GRIN-sphere lenses, said Dr Vince Handerek, senior principal research engineer at BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre in Great Baddow. In these lenses, the refractive index distribution is similar to the layers of an onion where each layer has a slightly different refractive index compared to adjacent layers. The advantages of using these lenses include their compactness, low cost and wide field of view. This field of view advantage is crucial as we will not need to assemble multiple components pointing in different directions or require complex pointing and tracking systems.

International Patent Application No. PCT/GB04/003652, published as WO 05/022210

International Patent Application No. PCT/GB04/004349, published as WO 05/041450


BAE Systems is an international company engaged in the development, delivery, and support of advanced defence and aerospace systems in the air, on land, at sea, and in space. The Company designs, manufactures, and supports military aircraft, combat vehicles, surface ships, submarines, radar, avionics, communications, electronics, and guided weapon systems. It is a pioneer in technology with a heritage stretching back hundreds of years and is at the forefront of innovation, working to develop the next generation of intelligent defence systems. BAE Systems has major operations across five continents and customers in some 130 countries. The Company employs over 90,000 people and generates annual sales of approximately 14.8 billion through its wholly owned and joint-venture operations.

For further information, please contact:

Richard Coltart, BAE Systems
Tel: +44 (0) 1252 383074

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