U.S. Army To Test Prototypes Of Firefighter Locator Systems

In the next couple of months, the U.S. Army Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center of Natick, Mass., working under a $430,000 Homeland Security grant, will test several remote firefighter locator systems in Boston.

The systems, developed by universities and private companies over the past three years, will be evaluated by the Army in conjunction with researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) of Worcester, Mass. The college has hosted conferences during those three years to help researchers share information on development ideas. More than 100 people participated in the 2008 conference.

Worcester Polytech’s own locator system will not be tested at this time, so as to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

The WPI locator system uses advanced radio frequency technology and algorithms borrowed from synthetic aperture radar to track and pinpoint the three-dimensional location of a firefighter wearing a special transmitter.

The objective is to find lost or downed interior firefighters whose PASS alarms are activated manually or automatically from lack of motion. Six disoriented Worcester firefighters died in a warehouse fire in 1999.

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