It’s been a long time since Nexter was associated only with “big machines”. On the contrary, the French systems integrator is opening its portfolio to light tactical systems, such as the FINDADFI connected headphones. Unveiled at Eurosatory 2016 and now at the demonstrator stage, FINDADFI is Nexter’s response to the “French special forces’ requirement for connected headphones,” explains Pascal Dumoret, Nexter’s operational technical advisor, at the Special Operations Forces Innovation Network Seminar (SOFINS) being held this week at the Souge military base near Bordeaux in western France.
FINDADFI is the latest addition to the FINDERS C2 range of combat systems, and is primarily designed for infiltration missions and Blue Force Tracking under sail or on the ground. If there is nothing new in a connected headset, Nexter has been able to give it modularity, lightness and ergonomics so that the soldier can have access to information, via augmented reality, to help him meet a maximum of operational objectives.
FINDADFI is a helmet made up of “functional modules” connected to a retractable display, the whole being completely devoid of cables and easily interchangeable by plug and play. These “building blocs”, the size of a box of matches, provide the modularity necessary for special operations, allowing the operator to adapt his helmet in seconds according to the mission. To achieve such a level of miniaturization, Nexter worked with Photospace, whose know-how made it possible to integrate three functionalities within a single module (messaging, geolocation and navigation).
The range of functions is practically infinite, ranging from the simple battery, which currently offers 90 minutes of autonomy, modules navigation, altimetry or geolocation. It is thus possible to integrate flight plans enabling a sky-diver to follow an intinerary in real time.
Unlike the first demonstrator, version 2.0 presented this week at SOFINS incorporates dual function modules for more complex systems and has a flexible structure giving it a weight gain of 250 grammes. FINDADFI is virtually devoid of any thermal signature. A series of tests carried out in coordination with the French Army’s technical service, STAT, thus confirmed that, from the front, the helmet’s thermal signature was no different from that of a traditional helmet.
But FINDADFI also includes a messaging function allowing communication between operators using a haptic glove connected via Bluetooth to the helmet and developed in partnership with the defence branch of Oakley France. With a simple finger movement, the soldier can already send five essential messages to his teammates. Moreover, the helmet comprises a module that emits a “message” through a predefined sequence of vibrations in order to maintain the communication flow in the event of the display being retracted, for example when using a weapon.
As for the future of FINDADFI, “we plan to present a final version of the second demonstrator in 2017,” says Dumoret. A third demonstrator is already being studied and is expected to incorporate new features, such as “a friendly start detector, to be launched in the summer of 2018, and a collision avoidance device for operational sky-divers,” says Dumoret. By the beginning of 2018, the geolocalisation-navigation-communication trio will be expanded to the PCO level through the miniaturization of the FINDSAT system, which, when connected to the IRIDIUM satellite constellation, will provide global coverage to the deployed soldier.
Nexter is also working on integrating a video stream into the display, allowing the operator to control a robot, amongst other things. Finally, Nexter plans to endow FINDADFI with a new visor replacing traditional displays. Once it has reached maturity, FINDADFI will be offered to all French conventional forces.