New headphones music to the ears

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Todd Fitzgerald (author), LSIS Peter Thompson (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Newcastle (F06), Science, Technology & Innovation

Officer of the Watch Lieutenant Robert McRae wears the new Bluetooth wireless headset on the bridge of HMAS Newcastle. (photo: LSIS Peter Thompson)
Officer of the Watch Lieutenant Robert McRae wears the new Bluetooth wireless headset on the bridge of HMAS Newcastle.

Bluetooth headsets could soon be introduced onto the bridges of Australian frigates thanks to the enterprise and innovation of two young engineers onboard HMAS Newcastle.

Weapons Electrical Engineer Officers Lieutenants Jeffery Mandryk and Addison Clune, researched and developed a pair after concerns were raised over the safety of the cabled models.

Officers of the watch, who wear the headsets to speak with their ship’s operations room, were concerned the 10 metres of cable that dragged behind them restricted their manoeuvrability around the bridge and posed a trip hazard, especially at night.

Newcastle’s Commanding Officer Commander Mark Sirois tasked Lieutenants Mandryk and Clune to find a solution.

“We quickly found out it would not be an easy project as we researched more into the interface between the old-style sound-powered technology of the bridge internal communications unit and the modern technology of a Bluetooth transceiver,” Lieutenant Mandryk said.

“When we got them up and running, the officers of the watch reported the headset was too quiet.

“We modified the design to incorporate an amplifier into the circuit but then we experienced problems relating to the amount of noise the amplifier introduced into the circuit.

“With the help of the Guided Missile Frigate Innovation Team, we optimised the gain on the amplifier and filtered out the noise.”

The headset was trialled on Newcastle during Warfare Assessment Week late last year, when communications between the bridge team and operations room is critical.

The results were music to the ears of everyone involved.

“Loud and clear two-way communications were achieved,” Lieutenant Mandryk said.

The new Bluetooth design has now replaced the old cable headset on Newcastle.

The system offers the capability of listening to two different channels simultaneously via the left and right earphones, with the addition of mute buttons for each individual circuit.

The cable headset remains on the bridge and functions as a redundancy if the Bluetooth headset should fail. The Officer of the Watch is able to unplug the Bluetooth transceiver and plug in the cable headset.

The design is currently before the Missile Frigate Ship’s Program Office, which is responsible for ensuring the operational availability of the missile frigate fleet.

Chief Engineer Mr Subrata Majumder said the headset was a smart, low-cost and safe solution for eliminating hazards such as trip and neck strain.

“They have proven themselves as good innovators through successfully designing and delivering a capability which will help the officers of the watch,” Mr Majumder said.

“The Missile Frigate Enterprise has accepted this innovative solution and made a decision to implement it onto the platforms. Noting one Capability Manager is responsible for both the Guided Missile and Helicopter Frigates, is it highly likely this solution will be implemented out on the latter as well.”