Harris’ RF-7800S-LR Leader Radio — a battle ready PDA?

By Dean ~ September 13th, 2011. Filed under: Industry.

Small Picture of the Harris RF-7800S-LR Personal Leader Radio

Credit: Harris

As faithful readers know from previous posts, we’re big proponents of bringing 21st century tech to the military and first responders.  Thus, I read this recent announcement from Harris Tactical Communications with some excitement:

Harris Corporation Introduces RF-7800S Leader Radio; First Soldier “Smart Radio”

“… with embedded GPS, encryption and a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). The RF-7800S-LR provides unit leaders with combat-proven tactical communication and computing capabilities in a single, lightweight device for enhanced mission flexibility.

The Harris RF-7800S-LR combines a tactical radio with built-in computer to deliver voice, wideband data and networking and supporting applications such as mapping tools, messaging and video transmission. These capabilities allow deployed warfighters and their leaders to send and receive information critical to situational awareness, including the collection and streaming of full motion video.”

Photo of an old Palm Pilot

Palm Pilot
@ Wikipedia

For those too young to remember, “Personal Digital Assistant” (PDA) was the term coined to describe devices like the old Palm Pilot.  Still not ringing any bells?  Think about a smartphone, without the phone, without wireless connectivity and including a fairly limited selection of apps.  Often the preloaded apps were limited to little more than a calendar, an address book and a to-do list manager.  I can see you recoiling in horror at the thought.

With that digression out of the way, we can get back to topic at hand.  The RF-7800S-LR is presented as a modular upgrade to Harris’ RF-7800S-TR secure personal radio.

The new handset supports (PDF) output for an optional VGA resolution display, a USB digital data interface, an embedded GPS and the aforementioned embedded PDA.  The device runs the WinCE 6 OS, which is where the story definitely starts to break down.  This version of the mobile OS was first introduced in 2006.  The RF-7800S-LR also provides 4GB of internal flash.  The flash storage is not field replaceable, and not particularly generous.  While the current version of the RF-7800S-LR certainly represents a start towards bringing state of the art mobile tech to the front lines, 4GB of internal storage and a WinCE 6 platform (I wonder if they plan to upgrade to Windows Phone 7) are not exactly pushing the leading edge.

It will be really interesting to see where they go with this platform.

Picture of a soldier holding a RF-7800S-TR personal radio

Harris RF-7800S-TR Personal Radio
Image credit: Harris

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