The technology, which uses the body’s natural ability to transmit sound through bone conduction, is being applied to Land Rover BAR as a way of dramatically improving communication between crewmates and support boats.
BAE Systems’ expertise in bone conduction technology, used elsewhere to aid armed forces personnel on the battlefield, has allowed it to develop a communications device that enables users to keep both their ears free so external sounds can be heard, whilst providing the ability to communicate clearly with crewmates despite the harsh and noisy conditions.
The prototype headset creates physical vibrations from an audio signal, which travel through facial bones into the inner ear, which translates these vibrations into nerve impulse signals sent to the brain, allowing the user to hear audible sound.
Mohammed Akhmad, Principal Scientist at BAE Systems, said: “We’ve heard from Land Rover BAR how clear and accurate communication is essential to a winning sailing team. The system we have developed is able to deal with the large amount of background noise, which can affect the clarity of the speech being transmitted, and is also rugged enough to operate in the extreme conditions sailors are regularly put through.”
Communication is essential to making smart tactical and strategic decisions when racing, with crews having to operate in highly pressurised environments, sailing at speeds up to 50mph in adverse weather conditions. This can cause regular headsets to fill with water and become muffled, making clear communication between the racing crew and support staff almost impossible.
Members of the public can see – or hear – this for themselves as the technology is being put through its paces at the Tech Deck at Land Rover BAR in Portsmouth, as part of an interactive exhibit that shows how technology helps teams make the right decisions in the high-pressured race environment.
Land Rover BAR sailor Matt Cornwell, who has been racing in the America’s Cup since 2003 said: “On board communication is something that we have identified as a real performance differentiator. We have had to step up our game from the pre-2010 era when a headset was ‘a nice to have’ and you could get the job done with some fairly basic kit. Now we are having to get much more sophisticated, which is why BAE Systems’ support and expertise is so important to the future successes of our team.”
BAE Systems is a part of Land Rover BAR’s multidisciplinary research and development Technical Innovation Group, powered by PA Consulting, tasked with providing world-leading technology and engineering expertise to drive a competitive advantage at the America's Cup.