Army Tests New Acoustic Threat Detection System

The U.S. Army is experimenting with acoustic threat detection systems to help soldiers in combat zones pinpoint the location of incoming fire, from automatic weapons to rocket-propelled grenades, officials said.

The service is testing products including FireFLY, which was used in Afghanistan for a two-year period through 2013, and a newer and bigger system called Serenity, which is works with infrared cameras to produce more precise geolocation data.

“It’s not an official program of record, but it’s based off of 10 years of research and it’s in the late prototyping stage,” David Anderson, president of Invariant Corp., said last week during an exhibition at the Pentagon to showcase various military research projects.

The company teamed with Hyperion Technology Group to develop the technology in collaboration with the Army Research Lab and the Army Aviation Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as AMRDEC.

Serenity, made by Logos Technologies LLC, builds upon technology developed for the FireFLY ground system and integrates data from both electo-optical and acoustic sensors to increase accuracy and reduce false alarms. It features a six-microphone array and eight-sensor camera pod that can be mounted on a blimp or radio tower to detect threats such as rocket-propelled grenades and detonations up to 10 kilometers away.

“The infrared looks for a flash from a gunshot and the acoustics listens for the bang,” said Geoffrey Carter, president of Hyperion. “So we get the flash and the bang, and then we cue the operator. The accoustics get us very accurate azimuth, or bearing, to the threat. The combination of knowing the speed of light and the speed of sound, we’re able to get the distance in the time of arrival to the threat.”

The product is designed to be installed around the perimeter of a contingency operating base, or COB, or forward operating base, or FOB, where troops can have limited situational awareness, Carter said. “They hear gunshots but they don’t always know where they’re coming from,” he said. “So this gives them very pinpoint geolocation where the activity is coming from.”

A typical configuration for FireFLY costs around $45,000, while the bigger Serenity system goes for about $400,000, officials said. (Images of the latter weren’t immediately available.)

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • Mal

    Wait, the systems are called Firefly and Serenity? Logos Technologies clearly employs a browncoat or two.

    • blight_

      Alliance Operatives are coming. Silence.

      • Ziv

        Oddly enough, the names actually make me think that the devices are more likely than not to work reasonably well and not cost a fortune. Anyone geeky enough to obviously be using the TV series/movie Firefly to name their products are probably geeks that understand the military better than most of them do.

    • steve

      But, can it detect Reavers?

      • Dfens

        Yes, if they’re shooting at you.

        • steve

          Well, they seem to favor melee weapons, once again, our lame representatives in the Alliance Senate are wasting our tax dollars When are the Alliance brass going to stop buying toys for the war they want to fight and get the things they need for the fight they’re in?.

          • Dfens

            Excellent points!

  • Ken

    What ever happened to Boomerang?

    • Durandal

      this is the decendant of the boomerang. Im sure there will eventually be more mobile versions of this system.

      Hell, it would be even cooler to use multiple squad radios in combination with that minaturized atomic clock system i heard of earlier to give it to mobile ground infantry. THAT would be awesome IMO.

    • Eric

      Boomerang is still fielded in both a fixed site and vehicle mounted config. Big Army is no longer pursuing the Boomerang as a program of record being it shifted focus to the development of a Hostile Fire Detection sensor that can be mounted on wheeled and tracked vehicles. I don’t believe FireFly / Sentinel are any more capable than Boomerang.

  • Patriot on a String

    When a smaller defense contractor can’t pay campaign donations high enough out of awarded defense contracts like the developers BBD working with DARPA on the Boomerang System (which by the way does an ‘ease drop’ compable interface through digital radios systems and mobile devices thanks to work with Harris) Boomrang can even differentiate other known noises including engine, electrical interference, and a bumble bee wing flutter. So someone within the DOD is instructed to find an idiot startup to reinvent the wheel that will give a substantial campaign contribution to one or both parties - you know Tax Payer Dollars to Politicians via DOD… If you didn’t know GE Erricson in the 1990’s had vehicle mounted transmission systems that could jam or explode IED’s remotely on all frequencies including SAT and digital cellular…. While allowing encrypted voice and data transmissions feed as pass through. Where is GE Erricson now and where was this system during the start of the war on Terror? Campaign Contributions…….

  • Fatman

    Domestic police have been using a similar system called ‘shot-caller’ since the 90’s that does the same thing with distributed microphones.