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Extend the edge of connectivity; the importance of remote situational awareness

Soldier Modernisation revisits goTenna’s multi application mesh networking product goTenna Pro

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Today’s technology allows us to extend the scope of awareness well beyond our immediate environment. Without being physically present in a location, we can know the weather, check traffic, and receive updated news from nearly anywhere in the world. Remote situational awareness (RSA) — the ability to perceive beyond our immediate environment — is fundamental to our everyday decision making. For some, RSA is more than a way to optimize a daily routine; it is the difference between safety and danger. Every day, special operations forces (SOF) are tasked with carrying out critical objectives that are hazardous, require precise coordination between teams and resources, and demand that decisions are made in real time. While RSA is vital at multiple levels of the operation, from the commander to the operator, these missions are often conducted in off-grid, austere environments where standard connectivity is not possible or practical.

Q: Most people have heard of goTenna through the solutions you are applying in the Nett Warrior program to work alongside ATAK, can we look at the problems that are occurring and how goTenna Pro overcomes them?

Todd Kuchinskas: When a squad or small team enters an area with poor communications, their situational awareness (SA) and safety becomes subject to a cell or satellite signal that may be compromised, unreliable, or even nonexistent. High-bandwidth mesh networking radio devices, the go-to solution for signal-denied operating environments, are often expensive and difficult to deploy down to the individual soldier — let alone individual soldiers in partner nation forces.

As ATAK (and its international force counterpart CivTAK) becomes more popular as a simple and low-cost blue force tracking solution, the challenge becomes remaining on the TAK app without a fixed terrestrial or expensive satellite network.

Two gaps goTenna has identified and are helping to solve are: 1) staying on ATAK without connection to a network; and 2) interoperability at a low cost.

Todd Kuchinskas, International Channel Development Manager, goTenna

Todd Kuchinskas, International Channel Development Manager, goTenna

 

Elan Frantz, Director of Product Strategy, goTenna

Elan Frantz, Director of Product Strategy, goTenna

 

Wes Bryant, SOF Business Development Lead, goTenna

Wes Bryant, SOF Business Development Lead, goTenna

Q: The applications and situational uses of GoTenna Pro are all inclusive around the battlefield: from in the air with parachutists, through high density areas and even underground. How easy is it to set a system up and some different scenarios?

Elan Frantz: The goTenna Pro X radio device is a low-cost, lightweight and simple-to-deploy solution that enables anyone with a smartphone to quickly connect to the goTenna network through ATAK or other situational awareness applications. The mapping and messaging information we collect and exchange can be relayed through other radio systems and backhauled through to central command systems.

goTenna Pro X provides a solution groups which otherwise could not afford a tactical blue force tracking solution enabling them to increase situational awareness, safety and mission effectiveness at the team level while improving command and control.

goTenna Pro X continues to be selected as a key tool for various organizations’ Remote Advise Assist (RAA) kits. The RAA kits are integral to engaging with partner forces for tactical situational awareness in the field. US forces that have used goTenna Pro-X in a training capacity are now transitioning these devices to active operations.

Q: Two main areas for dismounted soldiers, and leading most discussions, are power management and lightening the load, could we look at the products power usage and charging capabilities and how this ties in to load carriage?

Wes Bryant: Special operations forces often have to weigh functionality and capability against bulk, weight and cumbersomeness. These forces need to operate quickly, efficiently and stealthily. Heavy equipment or even excessive cabling is often a detriment that gets in the way of their mobility.

As a former special operations JTAC, I know it’s not uncommon for operators to choose to leave some gear back at base if it weighs them down too much — even equipment that would otherwise be mission-enhancing. This is an area where goTenna’s small, lightweight mobile mesh networking devices can be a solution.

For example, mobile mesh networking devices like goTenna Pro X weigh less than 3 ounces and easily fit inside a pocket or attach to a MOLLE rig. The interface to an end user’s smartphone or tablet can be completely wireless using a Bluetooth connection, or a single USB tether cable. This kind of plug-and-play setup doesn’t encumber an operator’s kit or weigh them down like typical tactical-grade communications tools.

Since the last time we spoke with Soldier Modernisation, we’ve announced a new add-on accessory kit with the team at Juggernaut — a tethered chest mount that provides operators with everything they need to connect goTenna Pro radio devices to paired smartphones and ensure up to 18 hours of battery supply for both radio and phone.

Q: One area we have been talking about is the ‘Digital Battlefield,’ how is goTenna allowing the wide variety of data products to function across operational arenas?

Elan Frantz: goTenna provides the essential networking function to enable situational awareness down to the individual operator. Through TAK, we ensure that the locations of individual operators are known to all teammates, along with statuses, map objects and mission plans. In order to provide these situational awareness solutions down to to all individuals, the equipment needs to be easy-to-use, robust and cost-effective. High-bandwidth radios, while maintaining high capacity for data transfer, are often not affordable or practical to operations due to the size, weight, cost, complexity. The focus of goTenna is to provide a low C-SWaP product which enables reliable exchange of essential information in communications denied scenarios. Our products will continue to ensure that connection can be made from Command all the way down to individual operators. In this way, we ensure that the common operating picture is accurate and supports informed decision-making in real-time and insightful learning after-action.

high-bandwidth technologies for each team member, there is an immediate opportunity today to equip individuals at every level of the operation with low-bandwidth, low C-SWaP technology to support a holistic COP from the command level down to the operator. Developing solutions that integrate within the force’s larger C2 framework, but provide the correct scale of solution, will be key moving forward.

Todd Kuchinskas: We’re particularly excited to see how military forces are also considering our devices essential for soldier training courses. At a recent demo, goTenna Pro devices paired with the ATAK app reduced the time for a land navigation and recon exercise by 4 hours and ensured no trainees went lost or missing during the course. If we continue the mantra of ‘fight like you train,’ we can see a host of new possibilities and use cases emerge.

goTenna logo For more information on goTenna’s solutions for special and conventional military operations, please visit: www.gotennapro.com

 

Recent goTenna Pro Press Announcements:
https://gotenna.com/blogs/newsroom/gotenna-and-juggernaut-case-release-new-gotenna-pro-tether-cable-kit-for-rugged-and-austere-operations

https://gotenna.com/blogs/newsroom/gotenna-pro-supports-off-grid-communications-and-situational-awareness-at-patriot-south-2020

Notable goTenna Military Customers:

U.S Military Forces

  • PEO Soldier - Nett Warrior Program: goTenna Pro devices are now a key piece of the Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFAB) Remote Advise and Assist Kits, ensuring reliable comms with individual partner nation soldiers even when advising special forces teams are not physically present for the operation
  • U.S. Special Operations Forces: Actively deployed by units in every component command (JSOC, USASOC, MARSOC, NSWC, AFSOC)
  • National Guard: Currently deployed by state-level Guard units for domestic operations and emergency response

International Military Forces

  • Australian Defence Force: utilized for last mile communications during the 2019-2020 bushfire season; currently evaluating for military operations and training uses
  • United Kingdom Ministry of Defence
  • Canadian Special Forces
  • New Zealand Defence Force
  • Swedish Armed Forces
  • French Special Operations Command
  • Polish Special Troops Command
  • Qatar Special Forces Company
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