QinetiQ’s EARS SWATS AKA IGDS: Shoulder mounted shot detection

Lend me your EARS:

QinetiQ North America, a US subsidiary of the UK-based defense company, has an interesting product to pinpoint hostile gunfire quickly while dismounted from a vehicle:  Man-portable gunshot detection.  Their EARS system has been operational for a while as a vehicle and building mounted gunshot detection system.  In 2008, after much development, they fielded their SWATS (Shoulder-Worn Acoustic Targeting System).  PEO Soldier gave it the acronym IGDS (Individual Gunshot Detection System) as well.  Unlike ShotSpotter, which is not portable and can detect shots over a multiple square mile area, the EARS technology can detect shots from 700m on in.  Shots fired within 50m do not register, as to not overwhelm the user with detection of their own unit’s fire.

The SWATS unit itself comes in two parts, the remote/display and the shoulder worn detection puck.  The complete system weighs 15oz and is only 472cc in size.  It is powered by two CR123 batteries.  The remote has a visual display of the distance and angle, and the unit also gives off an audio cue of where the shot/s were detected coming from.

As far as military usage, the system has been successfully fielded in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Various police forces around the world have purchased units as well.  Though there have been various testimonials as far as its effectiveness in open areas, I am unsure of its performance in heavily built-up urban areas.  As component miniaturization progresses over time, I believe it is only a matter of time before many infantrymen and patrol officers may have one of these units as part of their worn technology suite.  It could also be a very useful tool for game wardens as well to detect potential illegal harvesting of game animals.  Law enforcement or military readers:  Have any of you used these units?  If so, we’d love to hear from you in our comments section as to their utility and effectiveness.





Rusty S.

Having always had a passion for firearms, Rusty S. has had experience in gunsmithing, firearms retail, hunting, competitive shooting, range construction, as an IDPA certified range safety officer and a certified instructor. He has received military, law enforcement, and private training in the use of firearms. He is fortunate enough to have access to class 3 weaponry as well.


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  • BattleshipGrey

    That’s pretty cool. Now we just need it to pick up and recognize the footsteps of the enemy and the FPS combat video game radar will become reality.

    Seriously though, sounds like this is worth its weight for soldiers.

    • Major Tom

      Only if it displays on my magic HUD.

      • Samuel Millwright

        I completely agree with you and luckily for ppl like us so do the guys at ARL NAVSPECWAR & etc too!

        They’ve been thinking in this direction for quite some time and were doing some wickedly cool stuff even back in 20032004 era!

        Now admittedly i may be totally biased and just be giving these guys props because the solutions they’re pursuing and the way they’re looking at doing things just happens to be the same way I’ve always figured would work best…

        But you can’t exactly fault sumdood from teh interweb for being proud as punch that he guessed right!

  • gunsandrockets

    In service since 2008?

    If so, then what cutting edge gizmo is in service today?

  • gunsandrockets

    Very impressive, direction + distance location?

    Yikes. Imagine the fun a 40mm gunner could have using this device.

    • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

      And be like the UK with mortars on the squad level.

      Thats probably still a bad idea, but with that setup it would be fun.

    • noob

      Hmm attach this puck thing to a robot dog. Attach a CROWS with a mk19 40mm with airbursting rounds to same robot dog. Attach IFF transponder to robot dog. Put on IFF bracelet, power up and tell fido to go ahead and “fetch”

      • gunsandrockets

        robot dog? for a Mk19? Maybe a robot mule instead.

        “fetch”? Seek and destroy? Before the U.S. ever does, I’m betting the Russians or Chinese will loose upon the battlefield an armed autonomous robot tankette, without a human in the loop to pull the trigger.

  • Pete Sheppard

    All glowing reports, what are the problems/limitations??

    • Rusty S.

      If you are not somewhat in the line of fire, there are detection limitations. This can be a limitation in its law enforcement usefulness for patrol officers in violent neighborhoods. Certain other static grid systems are available for that application.

      • Pete Sheppard

        I’ve read that echos is a problem with other systems. I can see that being mounted on the target gives the system a more direct line to the source, reducing the echo problem. The range estimation is interesting; how does it account for different calibers and/or suppressors?

        • Dougscamo

          I daresay “backtracking” the sonic crack of the projectile in relation to the report….doubt if it would work so well on a subsonic round….
          Suppressed? Haven’t a clue….which in itself is not unusual…

      • Stephen Paraski

        In use by Detroit Police, the system you are referring to is mounted on telephone poles in certain areas like East Side of Detroit where shootings have increased in last decade.

  • SGT Fish

    oooooh FOB Wilderness, fun place. Gotta be an old video though, they are all wearing ACUs in combat.

  • jack daugherty

    I would not want to be the guguin the squad carrying it when the enemy figures out how to identify him.

  • Eric B.

    This great miniaturization of shot detection also has direct application for law enforcement situations.
    Like the use of night & thermal vision, this technology is invaluable to soldiers on patrol. It may be even better if the sensors could be built into helmets (in a VERY light format, of course).